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The Dallas Cowboys have preferred a draft-and-develop model for their roster building for the last several years under team owner and general manager Jerry Jones. 

Left tackle Tyron Smith is one of Jones' greatest success stories from that approach. After selecting him ninth overall out of USC in the 2011 NFL Draft, Smith racked up eight Pro Bowl selections, two First Team All-Pro nods and earned a place on the NFL's 2010s All-Decade team in his 13-season career. However, Jones let Smith walk this offseason as the 33-year-old signed a one-year, $6.5 million contract with the New York Jets that also possessed $13.5 million in incentives. 

His departure also reminded Jones of how Hall of Fame edge rusher DeMarcus Ware's nine-year tenure with the Cowboys came to an end given Smith's stature and production. 

"You can imagine the relationship we've got with Tyron and how much both of us hated to do," Jones said at the NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando on Sunday, per The Dallas Morning News. "It was just like it was with DeMarcus Ware. We both hated it. But it just wasn't there."

The primary reason for Jones not being more aggressive in retaining Smith is because of his $13.5 million in incentives that the Jets gave him. The left tackle played 14 of the Cowboys' 18 games last season including the playoffs, and in the regular season, he was his typical Pro Bowl self. Smith surrendered just one sack and 16 quarterback pressures, which resulted in his 89.9 Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade leading all NFL offensive tackles during the 2023 NFL season. 

"You know how highly he is thought of by us," Jones said. "We can't afford that. We can't afford that. If he makes all of these incentives and things like that, we would be really wrecked."

After not being proactive about extending 2023 Second Team All-Pro quarterback Dak Prescott, 2023 First Team All-Pro CeeDee Lamb and three-time All-Pro edge rusher Micah Parsons, the Cowboys entered the 2024 offseason with one of the lowest salary cap figures in the league. Dallas has spent the fewest amount of money in free agency this offseason ($9.875 million per OverTheCap.com) while having the smallest cash spending to salary cap ratio (0.7555 per OverTheCap.com) in the entire NFL as well. 

The Cowboys will certainly be replacing Smith with the assistance of the 2024 NFL Draft. 

"I think the draft aligns a little bit with our needs," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Monday, per the team's website. "I think the deepest position in this draft is offensive line. Every year, you're wanting to bring young guys into the fold in terms of your offensive line depth and how we work that aligns vey well with us. Because of the depth at that position, there's a pretty good chance we take an offensive lineman pretty high in this draft."