Dallas Cowboys release LB Jaylon Smith, the team’s second-round draft pick in 2016

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith was contributing.

Twice he started.

And the sixth-year pro had played more than 75% of the defensive snaps in the Cowboys’ wins over the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Chargers.

But Tuesday night, the Cowboys released Smith, a person with knowledge of the move confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not publicly authorized to disclose the decision.

The Cowboys will face the Giants this week with linebackers Leighton Vander Esch, Keanu Neal and rookie Micah Parsons. Parsons also rotates in with the defensive line.

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Jaylon Smith looks on during the Cowboys' win over the Panthers on Sunday.

Jaylon Smith looks on during the Cowboys’ win over the Panthers on Sunday.

Smith, who essentially redshirted during his 2016 rookie year after a gruesome knee injury in his final game with Notre Dame caused significant nerve damage, played well enough to earn Pro Bowl honors in 2019. He led the Cowboys in tackles in 2019 (142) and 2020 (154). Before the 2019 season, Smith signed a five-year, $64 million contract extension with $35.5 million guaranteed.

“I want to be a Cowboy for life,” Smith said at the signing announcement. “Wanting to be a part of the most prestigious brand in the world. And I’m a team guy as well. I’m a leader.

“Eventually, I’m going to be a captain for the Dallas Cowboys. I know it and feel it.”

The Cowboys did appoint Smith a game captain on Sunday in a 36-28 win over the Carolina Panthers.

Two days later, he was released.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jaylon Smith, Dallas Cowboys’ 2016 second-round draft pick, released

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