Jaylon Smith Release - Why Now?

Few expected that Jaylon's future in Dallas was secure. After his remarkable 2018 year (and thus the medium-large contract), his play has deteriorated and we all see his knee-related shortcomings in lateral movement and changing directions. He has not off-set those handicaps with good anticipation. Hustle he's got plenty, great off-field and in locker-room presence. But a large salary cap hit is a death sentence for a declining player. As for the off-season, there was an opportunity to cut Smith to the best financial advantage.

We saw an end coming, sooner or later. Why not earlier? Also, why not later?

First, why not earlier? Why not in the off-season?

  • it was not ALL that awesome a financial advantage.
  • that time was before the draft, and everyone "knew" we would be drafting Surtain or Horn, although yes, Parsons was in the conversation.
  • Keanu Neal was named a linebacker upon signing, but what was the true likelihood of a bargain-basement free agent hit here? Maybe 50%? Cutting Jaylon carried a real risk of leaving the Cowboys short-handed in NFL starter-quality talent.
  • the 2020 on-field year was a disaster for Smith, but one had to wonder if good quality coaching under Dan Quinn might return Jaylon to 2018 form.

So, for better or worse, they kept him. I know many fans argued to the contrary at the time (I think I did). The top management may have struggled privately over the question.

Second part of why not earlier: why not once training camp, and then the season, began?

The best hope was that under Dan Quinn and a full off-season and pre-season, Jaylon would play smarter, anticipate better, and at least minimize his physical limitations. Well, we saw the tape. He looked clearly better, but I think we agree that he didn't get "better enough". And at the same time, Micah Parsons became an absolute phenom in front of our eyes. Keanu Neal proved to be a viable starter. Jabril Cox is an unproven commodity so far, but seems very promising. So why not cut him earlier, soon enough to use the roster spot in a different way?

  • The loss of Demarcus Lawrence for 6 weeks, and at times Gregory and Armstrong, put Micah Parsons on the defensive line, giving Smith some useful playing time.
  • Keanu Neal lost 2 weeks on the Covid list.
  • We can only guess why, but clearly the Cowboys have not been ready to throw Jabril Cox into meaningful playing time.
  • regarding that 53rd roster spot. The early-season bottom-of-roster chaos is true for every team, every year, but especially last year and this year. So whatever secret plans the Cowboys have regarding certain players, so far they have been able to get away with whatever they may be getting away with.
  • Jaylon's improved play made him at least useful in the last 3 weeks. It would have been the height of foolishness to cut him sooner than now.

So, why not later?

  • if this was a salary cap cut, they would have cut him in March anyway. This has to have been purely about the personnel on the roster. A 53-man cut.
  • I believe, as hinted above, that they have an interest in protecting some project players that they feel might get poached if put on the practice squad, due to perceived upside. The number one suspect here is Simi Fehoko. He has apparently not amazed in training camp and early season, but MAN does he have some physical properties and skills. The whole NFL knows it. So now with Jaylon out, they can keep him safely at 53.
  • Meanwhile, other marginal/practice squad players have current value as depth or on special teams, but are unlikely to get poached. These guys can continue to move on and off the 53. Goodwin, Kamara, and Gifford come to mind.

Anyway, my 2-cents.

Paul Fuller, aka wotzamatta in the Youtubes.

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