This news comes on the heels of yesterday’s report that Smith and the Cowboys discussed a potential return while at the combine. Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News notes that the Cowboys still have interest in re-signing the lineman, but it’s clear the two sides are “drastically apart in the financial framework” of a deal.
The 2011 first-round pick has spent his entire career with the Cowboys, earning five All-Pro nods and eight Pro Bowl appearances. Smith inked an eight-year, $109MM contract back in 2014 that once reset the position’s market. Thanks to multiple restructurings, the veteran earned only $7.3MM this past season, and the organization opted to not hand him an extension.
Injuries continue to plague Smith’s career; the lineman has missed at least three games each season since 2015. The left tackle missed 27 combined games in 2020 and 2022, and he got into 24 of 34 possible games during his two most-recent “healthy” seasons (2021, 2023).
As we passed along yesterday, Smith and the Cowboys agreed to a new practice regimen that was intended to keep the 33-year-old healthy. The organization has also been willing to tolerate his absences as long as he was available for the team’s biggest games. Smith hasn’t missed any of the team’s four playoff games over the past three seasons.
While injuries are a clear issue at this stage of Smith’s career, the offensive lineman has continued to perform when on the field. Pro Football Focus graded him as the fourth-best offensive tackle this past season, including a position-leading pass-block score. Other than his lost 2020 and 2022 campaigns, Smith has graded as at least a top-20 OT in each of his NFL seasons, and it doesn’t look like he’s showing any signs of slowing down.
Still, considering his age and injury risks, Smith can’t expect to break the bank on his next deal. Pro Football Focus pointed to Terron Armstead‘s five-year, $75MM contract with the Dolphins in 2022 as a comparison. While the former Saints OT had his fair share of injuries at the time of the signing, he was also significantly younger than Smith is now. The site ultimately settled on a one-year, $10MM contract for Smith, which would keep him around the top-20 highest-paid players at his position. If a bidding war develops, the veteran could climb the AAV list, although he may be hard pressed to get a long-term deal.
As for the Cowboys, the team seems to have an in-house replacement for Smith. The team used a first-round pick on Tyler Smith in the 2022 draft, and the lineman has only missed three games through his first two seasons in the NFL. Jon Machota of The Athletic notes that offensive tackle is a likely target of the organization with their No. 24 pick.