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Jerry Jones says Cowboys could not afford to risk Tyron Smith hitting contract incentives

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By: RJ Ochoa

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Jones is insistent that the Cowboys could not afford to keep Tyron Smith.

What feels like five minutes after the NFL Combine, the league’s dignitaries have once again gathered all together for a coming of the minds. This time around they are in Orlando for the annual league meeting. This provides another opportunity for the Dallas Cowboys brain trust to speak on behalf of what the team has not done at all has done in free agency. To date the Cowboys have one external free agent signing in linebacker Eric Kendricks, although they have also brought back a handful of players as well.

Notably absent among the team’s returnees is left tackle Tyron Smith. It has been over a week now since word was first reported that Smith was joining the New York Jets in a move that was unpopular among Cowboys fans. This is a result of the incentive-laden deal that the Jets were able to land Smith on as well as some comments made by the future HOFer upon his arrival with Gang Green.

Jerry Jones says the Cowboys could not afford to risk Smith hitting the contract incentives

The Cowboys are going to stick to the idea that they could not afford anybody in free agency so it should come as no surprise that this is what Jerry Jones said when asked about Smith’s departure specifically. On the subject of specifics, Jerry mentioned that the Cowboys specifically could not risk Smith hitting the incentives in the contract that the Jets offered him.

The idea that Dallas could not afford the incentives is not something that will sit well with the fanbase as the team has various ways of freeing up salary cap space. Here is a breakdown of the contract.

Smith reportedly has $2M in base salary with the other $4.5M coming in as a signing bonus which is how we reach $6.5M, but the additional $5.75M that goes towards his yearly cap number comes from those Likely To Be Earned incentives.

For those unaware, the LTBE incentives must count towards a team’s salary cap for the year in question. If, in this example, Smith does not hit one or another then the Jets will be reimbursed with salary cap space a year from now. But on the subject of a year from now, that is where the Not Likely To Be Earned incentives are allocated. The remaining $6.25M in incentives only counts against the Jets’ salary cap if Smith hits them and once again that would be their 2025 cap, not this year’s.

When you look at it this way, the case can be made that Dallas should have been in on signing Smith. It is possible they felt like it was just time to move on given the injury history Smith has had for several years with 2023 as the significant outlier. There is definitely some logic to that.

Smith’s cap number for the Jets this season is $12.25M with the extra $6.25M coming only if he hits the extra incentives and even then that latter figure would be assigned to New York’s 2025 cap. If has stayed in Dallas on that deal, the team would not have to worry about that future money impacting this year’s cap situation either.

Jones also noted that the Cowboys are comfortable moving forward with Tyler Smith as the team’s primary option at left tackle, but they could also go a different direction if they take an offensive tackle in the first round as many are predicting.

To be fair, even if the Cowboys do take a tackle in the first round the player in question would not have to play the position right away. They could slow play things, after all starting at left tackle as a rookie is extremely difficult, although Tyler Smith made us forget that just two years ago.

Originally posted on Blogging The Boys