Bill Jones: Cowboys Tyron Smith tires of hometown discounts


DALLAS – On the same day 10-time Pro Bowler Aaron Donald surprisingly started his five-year, first-ballot Hall of Fame clock, eight-time Pro Bowler Tyron Smith concluded his 12-year Hall of Fame career with the Cowboys. 

Smith is headed to the NY Jets on a one-year contract that will reportedly pay him anywhere between $6.5 million and $20 million, based on how many games he plays. 

Good for Tyron. He deserves what he can get after eight years of hometown discounts in Dallas. 

The Cowboys were the beneficiaries of a below-market, eight-year, $97.6 million contract that Smith signed in 2015. That averages out to $12.2 million per year. In contrast, San Francisco’s Trent Williams has made $128 million the last eight years ($16 million average). 

The Jets were able to structure the contract this way because Tyron worked for a bargain basement price last year, an absurdly economical $6 million salary. That meant the Jets could craft a deal that pays Tyron a $6.5 million base salary with playing time incentives that stretch to a possible $20 million if he stays healthy all year. 

So, Smith is betting on himself and was smart to pounce on this offer after the left tackle market became more crowded in the last 48 hours with the Titans releasing Andre Dillard and the Cardinals cutting D. J. Humphries. 

Smith’s departure capped a day at The Star that saw 28-year old linebacker Leighton Vander Esch flunk his physical due to recurring neck injuries. So, he was unceremoniously released which will save $2.1 million on the salary cap. That was enough for the Cowboys to sign 32-year old free agent linebacker Eric Kendricks, who passed his physical and signed his one-year, $2.9 million deal which has another $500,000 in incentives. 

Kendricks had originally agreed to terms with San Francisco on Wednesday but changed his mind when he was assured by Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, his former coach in Minnesota, that he would be the starting middle linebacker here. Kendricks was being courted by the 49ers to play weak side linebacker while Dre Greenlaw recuperates from Achilles surgery. 

As if that wasn’t enough news for one day, as expected, the Cowboys also cut WR Michael Gallup, designating it a post-June 1 release, which means they will gain $9.5 million in salary cap space in June.  

Gallup was one of the most popular people in the building, but wasn’t able to provide the production the Cowboys hoped for after suffering an ACL injury two years ago. Of course, it was just a month after his surgery in March 2022 that Jerry Jones gave Gallup a five-year, $57.5 million deal. But Gallup only had 73 catches for 842 yards and 6 TDs the last two seasons. It’s another case of the Cowboys getting smitten with the person then bitten by the production.

So, add wide receiver and left tackle to the growing list of pressing Cowboys needs this offseason. Fortunately, there’s an abundance of each in the draft. To get a starting quality left tackle, you’ll need to draft him in the 1st round. You can find quality wide receivers on Day 2 and Day 3. 

The Cowboys do have the option of kicking 2022 1st round pick Tyler Smith out to left tackle, where he played his rookie season. And, another option would be to sign a veteran free agent tackle at a reasonable price, much like the Chiefs did a year ago when they signed 30-year old Donovan Smith to a one-year, $3 million deal. He started 12 games at left tackle for the world champs. 

Here are the top free agent left tackle possibilities and their expired contract numbers: 

  • Donovan Smith, KC (30) — 136 starts — 1y, $3m 
  • D. J. Humphries, ARI (30) — 98 starts — 3y, $51.7m 
  • Andre Dillard, TEN (28) — 19 starts — 3y, $29m 
  • Trent Brown, NE (30) — 93 starts — 2y, $13m 
  • Charles Leno, WAS (32) — 141 starts — 3y, $37m 

According to Spotrac research, the Cowboys currently only have around $4 million in salary cap space. So, in order to do much in free agency, the team likely needs to either restructure Dak Prescott’s contract or sign him to a contract extension. A restructure could create $21 million in cap space.