NFL franchises are proactively trying to create cap space ahead of the free agency period which will commence on March 17th. The Dallas Cowboys are no outlier in that regard. They had a disappointing season - finishing with a record of 6-10 - that stemmed from their defensive woes.
The Cowboys will trade or release players before March 17th and one player that could be on the move is LB Jaylon Smith. The 25-year-old could be an exciting prospect to NFL teams that will be looking to upgrade their linebacking corps.
NFL Trade Rumors: Is Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith on the trade block?
Smith had an underwhelming season in 2020, especially compared to his Pro Bowl campaign from the season prior. He finished with a dismal 54.2 grade from Pro Football Focus, which has made him expendable ahead of the 2021 NFL season.
Smith's down year would not have created a doomsday scenario for the young linebacker under normal circumstances. But the 25-year-old signed a massive 5-year, $63.75 million contract extension with the Cowboys in 2019 and his alarming drop in production since is a cause of concern for the team.
Smith is due to be paid $9.2 million in 2021 and has a cap hit of $11.8 million. These steep numbers are sure to make the Cowboys consider trading or releasing him ahead of the new season. Smith's contract runs through 2025, as NFL teams generally seek to lock up young prospects with favorable contracts to keep them in the organization and continue their progression as players.
Unfortunately for Smith, his cap hit makes it difficult to find a trade partner willing to take his contract on. So, if the Cowboys feel the need to move on from him, they may have to release the young linebacker. Though Smith would receive a buyout and then be able to test the waters in free agency, this scenario would not occur until June at the earliest. The longer Smith's release is delayed, the fewer options the linebacker is left with once he hits free agency.