Disaster struck the Dallas Cowboys‘ offensive line on Wednesday. Star left tackle Tyron Smith suffered a torn hamstring while making a block during practice, according to ESPN. A further report from NFL Network clarified that Smith suffered an avulsion fracture in his knee, which involves the hamstring tendon tearing off the bone. The NFL Network adds that Smith’s surgery will take place on Friday and the hope is he returns by December.
Smith, 31, has dealt with a variety of injury issues over the past several seasons, having missed at least three games every year since 2016. When healthy, he remains one of the game’s top tackles and is an eight-time Pro Bowler, but the “when healthy” qualifier is increasingly necessary.
Dallas is already undergoing massive changes along the offensive line this season, with the team having let left guard Connor Williams leave in free agency and then cut ties with right tackle La’el Collins. The former was expected to be replaced by first-round pick Tyler Smith, whom the team identified as its left tackle of the future but also someone who could start at guard next to Tyron Smith in the short term.
It’s possible that in the wake of Tyron Smith’s serious injury, the Cowboys simply kick their first-round pick outside right away, speeding up the process of moving on from the potential future Hall of Famer who has held down the left side of the line since 2012 (Smith played right tackle as a rookie in 2011.) The other in-house options are 2021 fourth-round pick Josh Ball, who has largely struggled during training camp, 2022 fifth-rounder Matt Waletzko, who has played exclusively on the right side during camp and is coming off an injury, and veteran swing tackle Aviante Collins, who has played just five games since going undrafted out of TCU in 2017.
According to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones, the current plan is to replace Smith with one of the in-house options, but the Cowboys will monitor roster moves around the league and determine whether to acquire another offensive lineman.
There are free agent tackles still available, such as Eric Fisher and Jason Peters, and there have been rumors about the Patriots making Isaiah Wynn available via trade. Dallas has plenty of cap space to make a signing or trade if it wants to bring someone in from outside the organization. No matter which route the Cowboys ultimately choose, though, they are extremely unlikely to get the level of production from any of those options that they have come to expect from Smith. For an offense that struggled down the stretch of last season as the offensive line dealt with injuries and ineffective play, it’s a devastating loss.