Tyron Smith has seen a lot of guys come and go since joining the Cowboys in 2011. Some felt he’d be one of the next departures this offseason, but the veteran offensive tackle is back for at least one more ride in Dallas. With his age and expiring contract, could Smith still have a future in Dallas beyond 2023?
Despite having not played a full season since 2015, and missing 33 games over the last three years, Smith didn’t become the salary cap casualty this offseason that some had projected. Instead, he got a reworked deal, heavy on incentives, with the hope that Smith could finally put the injuries behind him for at least one final year.
If the health issues continue to plague him, Smith will almost assuredly be looking for a new team in 2024 if he doesn’t retire. Even then, Dallas will still carry a $7 million salary cap hit due to the void years left on Smith’s contract. The cost of continuing this relationship will still be there for at least one more season.
But with Smith turning just 33 in December, what’s to say he couldn't get a new deal from the Cowboys? We’re not talking about running backs, after all. Offensive linemen can continue to be highly productive, even Pro Bowlers, into their mid and even late-30s.
Entering his 13th season in the NFL, Smith is now the longest-tenured member of the Cowboys roster. He’s not the oldest guy overall; punter Bryan Anger and special teamer C.J. Goodwin are ahead of Smith. Despite entering the NFL after Smith, guard Zack Martin and cornerback Stephon Gilmore are actually a few months older, too.
Martin is still playing at an elite level, and there’s nothing that says Smith won’t do the same if he can finally stay healthy. Even if he’s not still in his prime, Smith’s rare athleticism means he could still at least be a useful player even after losing a step.
It remains to be seen how Smith’s return will cause the rest of the offensive line to shake out. Will he remain at right tackle, where he played last year due to Terence Steele’s injury, or will Steele’s return allow Smith to go back to his customary role on the left? How would that then affect second-year stud Tyler Smith?
Some might assume that Dallas will simply let Tyron Smith walk after this year and move forward with Tyler and Steele as their offensive tackles in 2024. That would certainly make sense given their ages and stages in their careers, assuming they continue to play next season as they have previously.
But again, the Cowboys are already going to have a $7 million cap hit for Smith next year. That is incentive for Dallas to at least consider a new contract, absorbing that void money and now getting something for it if Smith keeps playing.
This makes Tyron Smith a very intriguing figure as we get ready for the upcoming season. We’re all naturally rooting for him to bounce back, but the ripple effect of his 2023 performance could impact multiple players and decisions for the next few years. Smith is still talented enough to be a difference-maker on the offensive line, but we’ll just have to wait and see if his body will finally cooperate.