Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith changing to No. 9, will pay six-figure sum for switch, sources say - Todd Archer, ESPN
After teasing a number change earlier in the offseason, Jaylon Smith officially made the change from 54 to 9, making him the first Cowboy to don the number since Tony Romo retired. But it didn’t come free, as the linebacker had to pay a good chunk of money for it.
To make the move to No. 9, Smith had to buy out the current inventory of No. 54 jerseys and T-shirts, which follows NFL rules. Had he said now that he would change his number in 2022, it would not have cost him any money.
“It’s about value over cost,” Smith said. “Definitely a blessing being able to play for the Dallas Cowboys, so working out the terms the right way. Really, I’m just thankful to be in the No. 9 and have an opportunity to turn this thing around this year. We’re all here focused. We’re locked in, and we know what we need to accomplish.”
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones gave Smith the blessing to make the change. A source said Smith reached out to Tony Romo, who wore the number from 2003 to 2016, about the switch as well.
“First and foremost, it’s a blessing and an honor to be able to carry on the 9 legacy,” Smith said “Tony Romo did an amazing job of just being elite and putting together great success for the Cowboys franchise. As you know, new players coming in, always getting an opportunity to sometimes carry on legacy. That’s the opportunity that the Jones family granted me with wearing No. 9, so it’s definitely a blessing.”
Here is Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith in his new No. 9 jersey, having switched from 54. Video credit: Dallas Cowboys. pic.twitter.com/lwXjmQm0Xr— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) May 25, 2021
Cowboys OTA observations: Dak Prescott comfortable in drills; first look at some defensive alignments - Dallas Morning News Staff
The Cowboys started their OTA’s on Monday, but Tuesday’s practice session was the first one open to the media. And it gave people their first glimpses at the 2021 Cowboys, specifically the return of Dak Prescott.
From a physical standpoint, it would be difficult to know Dak Prescott is coming off an open ankle fracture. Cowboys QB looks comfortable throwing on run with accuracy. Pushed pace in 7-on-7 two-minute period. All about right for player ahead of schedule from Oct. 11 injury. pic.twitter.com/MNbi6GAbJr— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) May 25, 2021
Tyron Smith and La’el Collins Back at Practice for the Dallas Cowboys - John Williams, Inside the Star
One of the bigger reasons for the Cowboys’ dismal 2020 season was the devastating injuries along their offensive line, notably to Tyron Smith and La’el Collins. Both tackles made their return to the practice field on Tuesday, boosting hopes for the upcoming season.
La’el Collins missed all of 2020 with hip issues. That left the Cowboys with Terence Steele to play right tackle. Though it was a slow start and Steele improved (marginally) throughout the course of the season, getting Collins back into the starting lineup along the offensive line will be a huge boost for Kellen Moore, Dak Prescott, and the offense.
Tyron Smith struggled through injuries yet again. Coming into the 2020 season, Smith had missed three games in each of the previous four seasons. In 2020, he couldn’t even play in three games. What has been a troubling trend for Tyron Smith continued last year as he struggled with neck and back issues that shut him down for the season.
All reports this offseason have pointed to the Cowboys two starting offensive tackles being ready and healthy when the Cowboys kick off the 2021 season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but getting them back on the practice field along with Dak Prescott is a huge boon for the Cowboys offense.
Damontae Kazee led the NFL in interceptions in 2018, cementing his status as a ballhawk free safety. But an Achilles tear ended his 2020 season early, leading him to the Cowboys. Now, Kazee is looking to get back to that big play form.
That’s the stigma that comes with an Achilles tendon injury – something Kazee seemed to realize. It’s also something he’s combating from the get-go, as he worked through a full regimen of drills and reps on Tuesday afternoon.
“I jumped right into it when I got up here – running and jumping, doing every DB drill with all of them, since the day I got out here,” he said after practice.
It’s been a long seven months for Kazee, who was in his third year as a starter in Atlanta when he tore the Achilles last October. If the pain of the injury wasn’t enough, it also came during the final year of his rookie contract, prompting plenty of uncertainty during the leadup to free agency.
“Let me just tell you about the offseason: I saw the real side,” he said. “Not having football — and I’ve been playing this for over 20 years now – I didn’t know what to do. I did so much film watching and doing everything and knowing my contract was up, getting injured. I was battling a lot of things, but I could only control the controllable.”
Cowboys’ position groups: Ranking from the strongest to the team’s weakest - Jon Machota, The Athletic
The Cowboys were expected to be a Super Bowl contender heading into last season, but injuries up and down the roster decimated their chances at contending. Now they’ve reloaded and returned those players to health, so what are their biggest strengths and weaknesses at this point?
If the injuries stack up again, this group will probably be far from No. 2. But with Tyron Smith, La’el Collins and Zack Martin all healthy, this should return to being one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. Tyler Biadasz takes over as the full-time starting center after starting four games there as a rookie. He started 41 games at center during his college career at Wisconsin. Connor Williams and Connor McGovern are expected to compete for the starting left guard job. Williams has been the starter there for 37 games over the last three seasons, including all 16 games last year. McGovern started eight games at right guard last year because of injuries.
If left guard is the biggest question along the starting offensive line, the Cowboys should be in pretty good shape. Ty Nsekhe is expected to be the veteran swing tackle with Brandon Knight, Josh Ball and Terence Steele looking to make the team as reserve tackles. Rookie Matt Farniok is starting out working at center.
Is the group loaded enough to overcome significant time missed by its top three starters? No. But what NFL offensive line is? It’s asking a lot to expect Smith, Collins and Martin to each stay healthy and play in all 17 games. But if those three are out there for most of the season, the offensive line production should return to the high standard it has set for itself over the last decade.
Damontae Kazee wasn’t the only former Falcons safety to reunite with Dan Quinn in Dallas, but Keanu Neal is switching to linebacker with his new team. On Tuesday, Neal got a little more specific about what his specific duties will be as he learns this new position.
Keanu Neal says Dan Quinn is one of the components that factored into him coming to Dallas.— Brianna Dix (@DixBrianna) May 25, 2021
His role? Told media he is playing WILL in base and dime in nickel packages.
“The hook, curl, dropping into some coverage, man-to-man on a tight end.”
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