It seems like it was a lifetime ago when a young Tyron Smith signed his eight-year, $97.6 million deal with the Dallas Cowboys. Such deals are unheard of, but this team knew what they had in Smith and they wasted no time in locking him down forever. Well, forever has finally arrived and Smith’s contract is officially up.
For years, Smith has been one of the biggest bargains in football. His $12.2 million average annual salary gets better with every year that passes. Of course, those great savings do fade a bit when injuries take him off the field which has been rather frequent in recent years. With Smith, there’s always some risk.
Now, he’s coming off one of his best seasons in years and the Cowboys will have a tough decision to make regarding his future in Dallas. Will he stay or will he go? When you lay everything on the table, we can envision Smith sticking around for one more year, and here are three reasons why it’s likely to unfold that way.
HE DOESN’T CARE ABOUT THE MONEY
Okay, to say he doesn’t care about the money is not completely true so we’re a little bit sorry for even luring you in with such verbiage. What we really mean here is, it’s not all about the Benjamins for Smith. The guy just played through an eight-year deal where he was largely underpaid for a great majority of the length of his contract and how many times do you remember him complaining about it? Zero.
And when the Cowboys offered up a creatively constructed restructured deal that would put less in his pockets if he wasn’t available, Smith agreed. His $13.6 million base salary turned to just a $3 million base, a $3 million signing bonus, and the rest laced with incentives based on playing time (and playoff results). Despite a relatively “healthy” season for Smith, the Cowboys ultimately ended up paying him a few million less than his original deal.
On the open market, he could easily command a better deal from some other team willing to roll the dice on his health, but for a guy who already has over $100 million in career earnings and is likely looking for one last hurrah, staying in Dallas seems more probable even if it means signing another playing time incentive deal. It’ll be fair enough for Smith.
THE COWBOYS NEED HIM
We speak about Smith’s availability to describe his value, but it wasn’t just the quantity of games played that mattered this past year, but the quality. The version of Smith we saw last season was the film they’ll show when he’s eventually inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was outstanding. He showed the strength, quickness, and elite-level hand work that has made him one of the game’s best over the last decade. His play was so good that he actually earned All-Pro honors for the first time in seven years.
Not only is he still playing at a high level, but the Cowboys have a lot of questions along the offensive line. If Smith isn’t resigned, it could force Tyler Smith to move back to left tackle, leaving a hole at left guard. There’s also the uncertainty of Tyler Biadasz who is a free agent this offseason. Nothing against T.J. Bass or Brock Hoffman, but the Cowboys could benefit from an extra year of service from Smith to allow them to get their affairs in order along the offensive line.
THEY FOUND A WAY TO PRESERVE HIS HEALTH
The fact that we are even having this conversation says a lot. That’s because so many fans have already been willing to let him walk off into the sunset. And it was nothing personal, the guy just hasn’t been available. Before this past season, Smith only played in 17 of the 50 possible regular season games over the previous three seasons. If you do the math, he missed the equivalent of two of those three seasons. That’s not helping anybody.
But last season he bucked the trend as Smith reverted to playing his good ol’ 13-game quota that he matched exactly for four straight seasons from 2016 to 2019. Did he just have a lucky health season? Maybe. It might also be true that Mike McCarthy did a remarkable job preserving his health this season. How, you say? Well, think of how many times Smith was close to playing, but the team thought better of it. Would he have toughed it out in previous years? There is also the fact they held him out of practice regularly during the season for a veteran day.
We don’t pretend to be doctors and we don’t know all the details that led to Smith being made inactive while seemingly appearing annoyed on the sideline, but what we do know is that during three different instances (across four games), he was held out, yet was back in action a short time later. Have the Cowboys figured out a trick in keeping this guy healthier than they have in the past?