Free agency is here, but the majority of the 2019 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, DallasCowboys.com will feature players who are currently under contract for next season, analyzing their past season and their future prospects.
Today, we continue the series with offensive tackle Tyron Smith.
What's Been Good: Eight years into his career, Tyron Smith continues to chug along as one of NFL's best players – and arguably its best offensive linemen. It's a telling indicator of Smith's reputation that 2018 was viewed as a down season for the veteran tackle, and yet he allowed zero sacks in 15 total games – 13 regular season appearances and two playoff games. Injuries and age may have taken a toll on Smith, and it's amazing to realize the guy is still just 28 years old after being drafted No. 9 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Despite that, Smith earned his sixth straight Pro Bowl nod in 2018 and helped anchor a Dallas offensive line that was thrown off by injury throughout the year. According to Pro Football Focus, Smith's pass blocking efficiency graded out at 98.5, and he allowed pressure on just 3.1 percent of his snaps. For all the talk about Tyron Smith's supposed decline, he's still playing at a heck of a high level.
What's Been Bad: There are two elements that prompt people to wring their hands about the All-Pro tackle. In 13 regular games, Smith tallied a whopping 10 penalties – seven of which were for holding. Now, it'd be easy to blame NFL officiating for the rash of penalties. It's easy to go out and find tape of Smith executing what looks like a picture-perfect block – only for a flag to come flying. The point remains: weekly flags are a troubling trend for any lineman, let alone a Pro Bowler. The other obvious factor is injury. Smith missed two games with a stinger he suffered in the Nov. 18 win against Atlanta. Luckily, that problem didn't appear to be related to the back injury that limited his previous two seasons, but it's another sign of wear and tear for a guy who has dealt with several problems. Smith missed just one game in his first five seasons in the league, but he has missed three games in each of his last three seasons. It's clear the guy can still play at a high level, but it does make one wonder how much longer he'll hold up.
2018 Highlight: The Dallas offensive line drew plenty of criticism in 2018 – and for valid reasons. Dak Prescott was sacked an absurd 56 times, and offensive line coach Paul Alexander was fired at the midpoint of the season. Smith and his counterparts delivered big time once the Cowboys reached the playoffs, though. Hosting Seattle in the wild-card round, the Cowboys surrendered just one sack in the 24-22 win, and they also paved the way for 164 total rushing yards against a stout run defense.
What's Next: For the time being, everything's great. Smith is a six-time Pro Bowler playing at a high level, and he figures to anchor the left side of the line for the foreseeable future. With Travis Frederick returning from illness, and with Connor Williams and Xavier Su'a-Filo also on hand, there's every reason to believe Smith will help this offensive line regain its sterling reputation from years past. The long-term is where you start to ask questions about Tyron Smith. He's halfway through the eight-year, $100 million contract he signed back in 2014, which means he's under contract through the 2023 season. If he's healthy and performing, that's phenomenal. But given the aforementioned injury issues, how long should the Cowboys expect Smith to keep playing? He's only 28, so it's not hard to imagine him playing until he's 33 – or maybe even years beyond that. But if the injuries keep accumulating, will it be enough to cut his career short? Smith is easily one of the toughest players on this team, so that's hard to imagine. But it does make you wonder what the future could hold.
There's a perception among some that Tyron Smith slipped in 2018. For one of the NFL's best tackles, that's more about Smith's standard than any actual dip in performance.
Bryan Broaddus' Bottom Line: When talking with our fan base, I get the sense they have general concern for Smith and his future with this club. I understand Smith's availability over these last several seasons, but to outright dismiss him for that history is not an accurate in my opinion. Smith has played through some painful days during his career, but the bottom line is he's played when he's had to. I'm not going to sit here and try and sell him as that elite player he once was. There's no question the various issues he's had to deal with have robbed him of that status, but he's still one of the most gifted offensive linemen in the league. Smith set the bar so high with his play that we become concerned when we see a game or two that's not at that level. Nobody works harder than Smith when it comes to his craft, especially when it comes to the aliments that he's had to deal with. I'm not betting against Tyron Smith, and neither should you.