Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy explains ‘big-picture’ decision to release LB Jaylon Smith

FRISCO, Texas — Cowboys administration met Tuesday for his or her regularly-scheduled personnel assembly.

They reviewed every participant on the staff’s roster and determined: It was time.

“This was a big-picture roster transfer,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy mentioned Wednesday morning.

Former Professional Bowl linebacker Jaylon Smith, who has began 56 video games for the Cowboys since 2017, was launched.

The choice was multifaceted. Smith’s contract, his play and the Cowboys’ younger starters growing faster than anticipated factored in. The leverage given to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn in his first season was additionally a part in pulling the set off. In 2019, Smith signed a five-year extension by way of 2025 price $64 million with $35.5 million assured, together with his 2021 wage of $7.2 million. Smith continues to be owed that wage this yr. However the Cowboys wished to keep away from one other contract implication: the $9.2 million damage assure for 2022 that may have triggered ought to Smith had been damage this yr.

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Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) talks with Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy towards the Washington Soccer Group in an NFL soccer recreation in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020.

Smith had not missed a recreation because the 2017 season started after redshirting his 2016 rookie yr whereas rehabilitating a grotesque knee damage during which he sustained nerve injury. However Smith’s manufacturing had dipped in latest seasons, criticism mounting. On a number of performs in Sunday’s 36-28 win over the Panthers, Smith stood close by a pursuit or was handily blocked out of a deal with.

The Cowboys, who’ve rebounded from the thirty first ranked run protection to the sixth to this point this yr, believed they’d higher choices.

“That is about progress and somewhat extra readability with defensive packages and personnel teams and the way we wish to play,” McCarthy mentioned. “The route of how we’re approaching the season, the flexibility to develop a roster high to backside, notably with the younger gamers.”

The Cowboys drafted Micah Parsons with the 12th overall selection this spring. Parsons has wrecked game plans as both a linebacker and a hybrid edge rusher stepping in to fill holes due to injury and COVID-19 absences. Sunday against the Panthers, Parsons started at linebacker beside 2018 first-round selection Leighton Vander Esch. The Cowboys have also been pleased with the production from offseason signing Keanu Neal and rookie fourth-round selection Jabril Cox. Neal, who was not fully vaccinated, missed two games due to COVID-19 but returned to practice Wednesday. The Cowboys also have linebacker Luke Gifford on their roster.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones met with Smith first to discuss the release. McCarthy met with the veteran afterward. Jones took a chance on Smith’s rehabilitation when selecting the linebacker in the second round of the 2016 draft. Smith’s return to a high level, a force in 2019 and the team tackling leader in 2019 and 2020, was one of Jones’ favorite redemption stories in the last five years.

McCarthy emphasized Wednesday morning that in releasing Smith, he is “not trying to send a message to the locker room” about the sixth-year pro. Rather, linebackers on the active and practice-squad rosters will have an opportunity to vie for snaps on the 3-1 Cowboys’ defense. McCarthy said he appreciated the time he spent with Smith.

“Jaylon’s an excellent football player,” McCarthy said. “He played good football for us. In my time, he totally bought into the new direction of the program, everything we’ve done, a guy who practices every single day, he plays his ass off.

“I have nothing but respect for him.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.

This text initially appeared on USA TODAY: Jaylon Smith: Dallas Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy explains shock launch

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