Offensive Tackle Tyron Smith has been one of the Dallas Cowboys' best players for the last decade but is now having a hard time staying on the field with injuries. With potential salary cap relief to be had by cutting Smith's contract, could Dallas be forced to make a tough business decision in the 2021 offseason with their All-Pro tackle?
Tyron is scheduled to count $14 million against the Cowboys' cap in 2021. Based on the dead money still unaccounted for in the deal, Dallas can save $5.2 million if Smith is released before June 1st and $10.5 million if he's designated as a June-1st cut.
Remember, even if they give Smith the early June-1st designation and release him before March, they won't have that $10.5 million to spend on free agents during the prime period of the NFL's open market. They would have to wait until June 1st for that cap space.
However, with Dak Prescott's contract to figure out, that extra $10 million could certainly come in handy later in the offseason.
That we'd even consider cutting Tyron Smith is only based on his missed games. From 2016-2019 he's missed three games every season, a few for veteran rest but mostly due to ongoing neck and shoulder issues.
The problem escalated substantially in 2020 when Smith missed a few games for his neck and eventually opted for season-ending surgery. He missed 14 games and was that absence was no small factor in the Cowboys' disappointing 6-10 record.
We all hope that Tyron Smith, having just turned 30 in December, can come back from this surgery and play for many more productive seasons. But given Smith's downward trend and his high cap hit, should the Cowboys put that money to use elsewhere?
Complicating matters is that Dallas' other starting OT La'el Collins missed all of 2020 after a corrective surgery for his hip. If the Cowboys were to release Smith then they'd have to be confident that Collins is going to make a full recovery. Otherwise, they could wind up right back where they were last season.
The Cowboys could find some other ways to create financial flexibility but few with the same singular impact of releasing Tyron Smith. But if Smith is ready to come back as his same old self in 2021, losing him would have a very different kind of impact.
Personally, I think the team will do everything it can to not have to cut Smith. They need both him and Collins back in 2021 for the offense to function at a championship level, and at the very least to provide some security against each other's health concerns.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if 2021 is Tyron Smith's last season with the Cowboys; the cap relief in 2022 is even greater and harder to ignore. But unless the harsh realities of Smith's health or the economics of paying Dak Prescott force their hand, the Cowboys should get at least one more year of Tyron's services.