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Progress Report: How Tyron Smith Bounces Back

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(Editor's Note: NFL rosters change wildly from year to year. This year will be no different, as the Cowboys seek to upgrade their roster via free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft. Still, a large percentage of their roster is already in place, and they'll have plenty of work to do to improve last season's 6-10 record. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will evaluate those players who are already under contract, examining their past performance and future outlook. Today, we'll continue the series with offensive tackle Tyron Smith.)

The Good: Here's a word that doesn't often get associated with Tyron Smith – or at least it hasn't since his rookie season perhaps. But Smith doesn't really have a lot of "good" moments in his career. He passed that years ago and it has moved on to greatness, evident by his seven Pro Bowl selections. His streak ended this past year because of the injuries. But make no mistake, when healthy – and sometimes even when he's less than 100 percent – Smith has been arguably the best left tackle in football and has been one of the very best linemen to ever play for the Cowboys. And that's the player the Cowboys are certainly hoping comes back from nearly the entire season off after neck surgery.

The Bad: The bad part of Tyron Smith's season was the aftermath of his absence. The Cowboys struggled without both Smith at left tackle and La'el Collins on the right side. Smith did play in two games, but clearly wasn't at his best, which resulted in a season-ending surgery. The scary part for Smith is the fact he's missed 26 games since 2016, including the 14 this past year. But the previous four seasons also saw him miss exactly three games each – and most of them related to his neck, shoulder and elbow area.

Best of 2020: There's certainly not much to choose from considering he played in two games. But let's dissect the Browns game in Week 4. Smith plays Week 1 against the Rams and then sits out the next two because of lingering neck issues. He comes back to play the Browns at home and sure enough, pass-rushing specialist Myles Garrett spends most of his day rushing from the opposite side, trying to expose rookie Terence Steele. But Smith played every snap of the game with an injury that would require surgery by the end of the week. Even when he's injured the most, Smith has proven to play at an elite level.

Contract Consideration: While it might look like a contract that is eating up a lot of room on the salary cap, Smith's deal is still considered team-friendly. He is expected to count $14.025 million on the cap in 2021. Overall, Smith's deal is worth just $12.2 million per season, ranking him 14th in the NFL among left tackles. If the Cowboys decided to release Smith, they could save anywhere from about $6-9 million on the cap, depending on the timing. But at this point, with him coming back from surgery and still having a relatively-inexpensive contract, it wouldn't make much sense to part ways.

What's Next: The glass half-full approach on Tyron Smith would point towards this much-needed neck surgery and suggest that he's finally going to be healthy again and should come back to his old self. The glass half-empty approach would not only point to the fact that he actually had neck surgery, and the fact he's missed at least three games a season since 2016. But the Cowboys clearly missed Smith in 2020 and need him back in the fold, regardless what the quarterback situation is for the team. The bet here is that Smith comes back, and while history suggests he might miss some games throughout a season, the hope is that he can play most of them, and with that, the offensive line will certainly be better for it.

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