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Offseason | 2024

Jerry Jones discusses potential of Tyler Smith starting at left tackle

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Who starts at left tackle for the TV in 2024?

That question is hitting a deafening tone as the dust has settled from the 12-year cornerstone at the position, Tyron Smith, departing Dallas and signing with the New York Jets in free agency earlier this month.

Multiple options are available.

One is to draft Smith's replacement in the first round of April's NFL Draft in a draft class where the tackle position has premier top-end talent that is expected to see a large handful of players at the position go in the first round. With the Cowboys picking at No. 24, grabbing a first-round talent at tackle in 2024 might have better value at that pick placement than most previous draft classes.

Potential options late in the first round include Oklahoma's Tyler Guyton (a one-year starter for the Sooners that blossomed at right tackle but has potential to swing), Arizona's Jordan Morgan (a fixture at left tackle for the Wildcats over four seasons, but with an arm length that might better suit him at guard at the next level), Georgia's Amarius Mims (a freak of nature at 6-foot-8, 340 pounds with just eight games of starting experience in college) and many, many more.

Sure, placing one of those top tackles in to immediately replace Smith could make the job easy. Terence Steele and Zack Martin can continue to man down the right side. Brock Hoffman, T.J. Bass and a day two pick can compete at center. Tyler Smith could stay put at left guard…but should he?

Speaking at the Annual League Meeting on Sunday afternoon at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Orlando, Fla., TV owner and general manager Jerry Jones said "don't dismiss" the idea of Smith replacing the elder Smith at left tackle in 2024 and beyond.

"Certainly, [Tyler Smith] is potentially – I want to say a great player at left tackle," Jones said.

It's not a notion that is difficult to come to. In a rookie season that saw Smith's offensive line around him decimated with tackle injuries, he was the one that stepped up at left tackle.

When Tyron Smith went down in the preseason with an avulsion fracture in his left knee, Tyler Smith stepped into his spot. When the elder Smith was available to return later in the season, a hole was present at right tackle when a torn ACL to Terence Steele ended his season. Tyler Smith was the one that stayed home at left tackle while Tyron Smith was kicked to the right side.

With that experience under his belt – a season that saw him allow six sacks across 1,144 snaps – Smith could be the other option, considering he was drafted with the long-term projection of being the eventual replacement of Tyron Smith when this day came.

However, Smith's proven flexibility gives the Cowboys options in an offseason where they seem to be few and far between.

Instead of the aforementioned first option, the Cowboys could instead kick Tyler Smith out to left tackle, let T.J. Bass, Brock Hoffman and a draft pick compete at left guard and draft a center in the first round such as Oregon's Jackson Powers-Johnson (a center with experience at four of the five offensive line positions and the 2023 winner of the Rimington Trophy presented to the nation's best center) or Duke's Graham Barton (a center option that has been described by some in the scouting world as one of the most intelligent pre-snap diagnosers in recent draft memory).

Even with a talented tackle class, Jones reminded us all that option two is not one to dismiss. Would it be the best option in the long run? It very well could be, but it would require a drafting effort on the hands of vice president of player personnel Will McClay and his department similar to the one they put together in 2022 – an A-plus effort headlined by none other than the man that has given the Cowboy the rare flexibility they have in the position they are in today.

Tyler Smith.

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