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Linebacker Jaylon Smith released by Cowboys in surprise mid-season roster cut

Linebacker Jaylon Smith was cut by the Cowboys in a surprising mid-season roster move on Tuesday, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter. He also reports that the Cowboys still owe him $7.2 million in salary for the 2021 season.

Smith had not missed a single game of his five-season career in Dallas. He started all 16 games from 2018 through 2020, but was credited with only two starts in the Cowboys’ four games of the 2021 season, per Pro Football Reference.

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Smith was credited with 18 tackles, 13 solo, in four games this season. Per ESPN, he played only 148 of 264 defensive snaps.

Dallas likely feels more comfortable releasing the 2016 second-round pick considering the emergence of rookie linebacker Micah Parsons. The team also has Leighton Vander Esch and rookies Jabril Cox and Luke Gifford on the active roster. There is also optimism that linebacker Keanu Neal will return from the reserve/COVID-19 list for the Week 5 game against the Giants.

Per ESPN, team owner and general manager Jerry Jones sat down with Jaylon Smith to discuss the team’s decision.

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Smith was considered one of the top defensive prospects coming out of college football ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft. But the former Notre Dame linebacker suffered a devastating knee injury in what was the final game of his collegiate career against Ohio State in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. The injury scared off several NFL teams, though the Cowboys were confident he could return to form considering one of their team physicians, Dr. Daniel Cooper, performed the surgery to repair his knee.

They selected him with the 34th overall pick.

Smith missed the entirety of the 2016 season, but returned to play in 2017, playing all 16 games and starting six. That season, he made 81 tackles, three for loss, forced two fumbles and a sack. His best statistical season came in his 2019 Pro Bowl campaign, in which he accumulated 142 tackles, 2.5 sacks, nine passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

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Smith signed a five-year, $64 million extension in 2019 that included $35.5 million in guaranteed money.

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