Tyron Smith’s return to Cowboys in ’23 impact on the line and draft
Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones, spoke up on a number of issues earlier this week at the NFL Scouting Combine; this included former All-Pro tackle, Tyron Smith. When asked whether their 12- year veteran is going to return for 2023, Jones plainly replied “yes.” He then spoke of Tyler Smith’s ability to play inside at guard and how much he values the versatility of his offensive line.
The veteran Smith has long been a left tackle, but played primarily on the right side in 2022. After Terence Steele went down to a season-ending injury, it was Smith who took over, playing on the right for the first time since his rookie season. Jones confirmed in his discussion with reporters that Steele is “ahead of schedule” and expected back in time for training camp.
Smith’s return was far from assured for 2023. The 2011 first-round pick is on the books to count $17,605,000 against the salary cap this season and Dallas could have saved $13,600,000 by making him a June 1 cut.
Smith’s impact on the offensive line
Jones’ candid statements regarding the three linemen (Smith, Smith and Steele) seem to imply the veteran Smith is penciled in at left tackle, the younger Smith is projected to play left guard, and Steele will reclaim his spot at right tackle.
With Tyler Biadasz and Zack Martin locked into the last two starting roles, the Cowboys starting offensive line appears to be set.
Such wasn’t the case when the veteran Smith was thought of as a possible cap casualty. In fact, it seems Smith’s contract isn’t much worry at all. When asked if he’d had discussions with Smith’s camp he said “we really haven’t yet.” And when Smith’s contract was brought up, Jones stated the team is “comfortable” with it.
Jones has never been uncomfortable talking about trying to work out savings when it comes
Smith’s impact on the draft
If the Cowboys would have decided to cut Smith this off-season, Dallas would have felt compelled to address the offensive line early in the upcoming draft.
Connor McGovern is set to be a free agent and the Cowboys typically avoid signing proven starters in free agency.
Much like last season, the Cowboys would be looking for a plug-and-play starter in the early rounds of the draft. In this relatively thin guard class, they wouldn’t have many other options to address their left guard position.
With Smith returning to Dallas in 2023, the starting unit appears in place and the immediate need to address it in the draft significantly plummets. The Cowboys are no longer looking for an instant starter from the draft.
Since Smith, Biadasz and Steele are scheduled to hit free agency in 2024, Dallas still has a looming need in the not-too-distant future. But they can be patient with the need and draft developmental players later in the draft to help alleviate the impending loss(es) in 2024.
With that said, if the right player falls into the Cowboys’ laps, offensive line should not be ruled out. Smith has only played in 17 regular season games over the past three seasons. Even the most optimistic Dallas fan would have trouble mustering the confidence Smith will play all 17-games next season.
A lot was learned with the statements made by Jones at the combine, perhaps none more than his statements regarding the offensive line.