FRISCO, Texas -- The Cowboys have decided to part ways with veteran linebacker Jaylon Smith.
In his sixth season, Smith has seen limited snaps this season, both in base packages and in the nickel defense.
The move doesn't save the Cowboys anything on this year's salary cap since his salary was guaranteed but potentially saves them from a guaranteed salary in 2022 if he were injured. The club explored trade possibilities but nothing materialized.
Smith had a spectacular comeback story when he entered the league as a second-round draft pick in 2016. He spent his rookie season rehabbing with the athletic training staff from a devastating knee injury that included nerve damage in his final college game at Notre Dame.
Back healthy in 2017, Smith emerged as a starter and became a Pro Bowler in 2019 after the Cowboys signed him to a five-year, $64 million extension. He led the team in tackles the past two seasons.
But the Cowboys reshaped the linebacker position this past offseason, signing veteran Keanu Neal and drafting Micah Parsons in the first round and Jabril Cox in the fourth round. The added talent and competition reduced Smith's role. Through the first four games, he played roughly 56% of snaps and ranked fourth on the team with 19 tackles.
Releasing Smith is likely viewed as a surprise move given this year's cap implications -- a guaranteed $7.2 million, according to reports -- but the Cowboys' newfound linebacker depth was an overriding factor.
So now the Cowboys' resurgent defense will move forward without Smith, their former captain, who will immediately become a free agent as a vested veteran.