Inadvertently, the Dallas Cowboys made one of their biggest NFC rivals worse by cutting Jaylon Smith: now the Green Bay Packers have taken him on.
When the Dallas Cowboys cut Jaylon Smith, it sent a shockwave through the NFL.
Cutting a Pro Bowl linebacker at midseason with five years and $ 50 million left on his contract and a total of $ 28 million in dead cap space had fans and analysts buzzing over why he was cut and where he would land next.
Although several intriguing possibilities were in the mix, Smith is finalizing a deal with the Packers less than 24 hours later.
Source: The Packers are, in fact, the likely landing spot for former #Cowboys Pro Bowl LB Jaylon Smith. They are finalizing details.
– Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 6, 2021
After the Cowboys defense finished 28th in the league last season, Smith experienced backlash for the historically-poor level of play. The Cowboys set a franchise record for points allowed with 473, numbers that made Smith look bad with his massive contract and excessive celebrations.
“He frustrated those inside and outside the organization with poorly-timed celebrations when the unit was performing badly,” detailed Todd Archer for ESPN earlier this season. “He raised eyebrows by switching from No. 54 to No. 9 this offseason, forking over close to $ 500,000 to make the switch when it would not have cost him anything to do so in 2022.”
Despite defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s comments about his speed earlier this season, Smith’s lack of speed was a primary reason he was benched for fellow linebackers. While Smith struggled to execute in the preseason, Keanu Neal and Micah Parson excelled.
Jaylon Smith’s production is now a Packers problem, not a Cowboys one
When Smith started 2021 with significantly less snaps than previous years, it spelled trouble for a linebacker with competition at the position. Leighton Vander Esch, Keanu Neal and Micah Parsons were all lining up for more snaps than Smith, so his massive contract no longer made sense.
While the Packers are reeling from their own linebacker deficiencies, the hope is Smith can return to his Pro Bowl level of play rather than the 2020 defensive performance for which he is responsible.
It’s a depressing development for Smith, who has overcome injury and adversity to play where he is today. A 2016 draft pick recovering from injuries, Smith never missed a Cowboys game from ’17 onward. In ’19, he was nominated to the Pro Bowl.
Smith is expected to be an improvement at the position for the Packers – but if his trajectory continues the way it has since 2020, Smith brings slow reactions and late reads to the Packers. If the Packers end up facing the Cowboys in the playoffs, it could be the Packers losing this one rather than the Cowboys.