The Cowboys will still be responsible for paying the $7.2MM that Smith is owed in 2021, and the team is going to be eating an additional $9.8MM in cap with the move (per ESPN’s Field Yates on Twitter). That chunk of cap comes via Smith’s 2022 injury guarantees, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter), and that significant chunk of money is a big reason why the Cowboys were unable to find a trade suitor. Smith will be eligible to sign with a new team starting tomorrow afternoon.
Despite being relegated to a backup role in 2021, Smith had been playing pretty well for the Cowboys through the first month of the season. The linebacker had started two of his four games this season, collecting 18 tackles. However, after appearing in 104 defensive snaps in Week 2 and Week 3, Smith was limited to only 28 defensive snaps in Week 4.
The 2016 second-round pick evolved into one of the Cowboys most dependable defensive players during his stint in Dallas. He started each of the Cowboys 48 games between 2018 and 2020, including a 2019 campaign where he collected 142 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles en route to a Pro Bowl appearance. However, the play from teammates Keanu Neal and Leighton Vander Esch (as well as a potential increased role for Jabril Cox) made the veteran expendable.
Other than a weak Week 4 performance, Smith has been more than serviceable this season, ranking as Pro Football Focus’ 11th-best linebacker through the first four weeks (via Twitter). A linebacker-needy team will surely be happy to add the new free agent to their squad.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.