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Jaylon Smith released: 4 ideal destinations for Pro Bowl linebacker

Vincent Frank

The Dallas Cowboys shocked the NFL world Tuesday evening by releasing Pro Bowl linebacker Jaylon Smith roughly 26 months after they signed him to a massive contract extension.

A second-round pick of the Cowboys back in 2016, the 26-year-old Smith overcame a devastating lower-body injury in his final collegiate season with Notre Dame to morph into a stud linebacker.

From 2018-20, Smith started all 48 games for the Cowboys. That span saw him record a combined 254 tackles, 18 passes defended, eight sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions. He earned Pro Bowl honors in Big D back in 2019.

Despite some regression when it comes to coverage, Smith is still relatively young and provides a ton of upside for teams in need of linebacker help. Below, we look at four ideal destinations.

Kansas City Chiefs land Jaylon Smith

Jaylon Smith signs with kansas city chiefs
Dec 13, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) celebrates after the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

To say that Kansas City has struggled on the defensive side of the ball through the first four games of the season would be an understatement. The team is giving up an eye-opening 31.3 points per game. It has also allowed opposing tight ends to record a league-high 348 yards.

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Smith wouldn’t be an immediate fix in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system. But he would help big time. At the very least, he could be an upgrade over rookie second-round pick Nick Bolton, who has been a part of their struggles this season.

Jaylon Smith signs with the Atlanta Falcons

Those interested in Smith wouldn’t simply be limited to contending teams. As noted above, he still offers a tremendous amount of untapped potential. Perhaps, the backer just wasn’t a fit in defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s system.

Either way, he’d make a ton of sense for Atlanta. The Falcons have yielded 11 passing touchdowns against zero interceptions on the season. Foyesade Oluokun and Brandon Copeland simply are not working out next to fellow former Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones. This makes too much sense.

Washington Football Team nets Jaylon Smith

We’ve seen this story repeated over and over again. A big-name player is surprisingly released by a team, only to sign with a division rival. While we don’t know the backstory to Smith’s release in Big D, we do know he’d be an upgrade in the nation’s capital.

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Washington’s defense has been among the most-disappointing units through the first four weeks of the season. Many expected it to be the best in the league. But Ron Rivera’s squad is giving up 30.5 points per game. Rookie first-round pick Jamin Davis has struggled. Cole Holcomb doesn’t seem to be much more than a replacement-level player. Perhaps, Smith takes a chance that Rivera could turn around his career. After all, the head coach has had success with fellow linebackers Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson in the past.

Jaylon Smith returns to native Indiana

NFL: Dallas Cowboys OTA
Jun 3, 2021; Frisco, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Jaylon Smith (9) goes through drills during voluntary Organized Team Activities at the Star Training Facility in Frisco, Texas. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

A native of Fort Wayne and product of Notre Dame, there’s a chance that Smith opts to return to his home state as a way to resurrect his now-fledgling career. A homecoming of sorts for the remainder of the season to see if he can up his value as a free agent next March.

It’s not like the Indianapolis Colts are set at linebacker next to Darius Leonard, either. They rank in the middle of the pack in scoring defense and have yielded an absurd 82% catch rate to tight ends. Smith would help solve that for a team that’s desperate following a 1-3 start to the campaign.