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FRISCO, Texas -- The 2024 season will mark the first time in his three years with the Cowboys that Tyler Smith will have clarity about which position he will be playing long term. 

Smith, the 24th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft out of Tulsa, played left tackle in college, but with left tackle Tyron Smith -- Dallas' 2010s All-Decade Team member -- on the line with him in 2022 and 2023, the less-experienced Smith kicked inside to left guard. His efforts in 2023 were rewarded with his first Pro Bowl selection after registering with a 74.5 offensive grade, Pro Football Focus' ninth-highest mark among guards who played a minimum 600 snaps. Smith dominated as a run-blocker, earning a 79.7 PFF run-blocking grade, the sixth best among NFL guards to accumulate 600 or more snaps. 

Following Tyron Smith's free agency departure to the New York Jets this offseason, Dallas decided to use its 2024 first-round pick (29th overall after a trade back with the Detroit Lions) on Oklahoma offensive tackle Tyler Guyton, a player the Cowboys intend to be their long-term solution at left tackle. Tyler Smith is now officially a full-time left guard and no longer has to also train as a tackle like he did his first two seasons in the event the elder Smith had an injury issue and couldn't play a certain week. 

"Clearly his position just being the one position (left guard) focus instead of being between two -- playing guard and tackle where you have to be in tune with what you have to do at each position. ... Obviously things happen a little faster out there at tackle on the edge . … Clarity on that definitely helps," Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said at minicamp on June 4 when asked how Smith being able to focus on left guard will help him. 

"We acknowledge our division opponents. He's going against some of the biggest and best defensive tackles in football at least six games this year. All of those things are part of the conversation."  

The NFC East, to McCarthy's point, is loaded with high-level and/or physical marvels at the interior defensive line position: two-time Pro Bowler and Second-Team All-Pro Dexter Lawrence (New York Giants), Pro Bowler Daron Payne (Washington Commanders), two-time Pro Bowler Jonathan Allen (Washington Commanders), 2022 first-round pick Jordan Davis (6-foot-6, 336 pounds, Philadelphia Eagles) and 2023 Defensive Rookie of the Year runner-up Jalen Carter (Philadelphia Eagles). 

"I'm definitely excited," Smith said at Cowboys OTAs on May 30 when asked about knowing he will be a left guard full time. "Just knowing where I'm going to be, and what I need to improve on. Obviously, we have to stay ready because that's part of our mantra: 'Five is one.' Anything happens, everybody has to step up. I'm definitely excited to be able to work at that spot, and continue to get better each day for sure."

At the tail end of minicamp, Smith admitted he was probably five to 10 pounds bigger than he played at in 2023, but he may end up trimming a little bit of the weight off prior to training camp. He said he played the 2023 season in the 320-325-pound range, and the Cowboys currently list Smith at 6 feet, 6 inches tall while weighing 332 pounds. His arm size increased thanks to focusing on them while rehabbing through "an elbow thing" that didn't require surgery.

"The biggest thing for me is just being solid at the point of attack," Smith said about playing left guard and facing some of the league's best defensive tackles. "I feel like a big point of emphasis for us is defending the A and B gaps where everything kind of starts inside and then goes outside. Definitely just being strong, having a strong core, which is something I incorporate into my workouts for my well being as well. Definitely for playing inside for sure."

Smith is now on the career path of the recently deceased Hall of Fame Cowboys left guard Larry Allen, according to the Cowboys front office. Dallas COO and EVP Stephen Jones compared Smith to Allen a few months back in February,     

It's starting to feel like [Hall of Famer] Larry Allen all over again," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said in February at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis when asked about Smith's long-term position. "The great thing about Tyler is his versatility; he could be a great left tackle, too. At the end of the day when we're through massaging it, we'll have a good spot for him. His versatility certainly brings options as we look at this team moving forward."  

Allen played the first 12 seasons of his 14-year NFL career with the Cowboys after being taken 46th overall (second round) in the 1994 NFL Draft. He went on to achieve 11 Pro Bowl selections, six first-team All-Pro spots and placement on both the 1990s and 2000s All-Decade teams. Allen started his career as a right tackle before moving to right guard in 1995, which culminated in the Cowboys defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-17, to win Super Bowl XXX. Dallas shifted him to left tackle in 1998 before he settled in at left guard, the spot where he played the final nine seasons of his Hall of Fame career.

Smith discussed Jones' comparison just days before Allen's passing.       

"It's huge for sure," Smith said when asked about Jones comparing him to Allen. "Just knowing Larry, everything he did and how great he was. ... Just a dawg. I've seen the tape. Just extremely athletic. ... One of the best pulling guards to probably ever play in the NFL. Not many people are doing people like that anymore. ... It's my mission to be the best me I can be. Be the best Tyler Smith I can be every single day. Improve, stay hungry, never lose that passion. Just continue to get better."

He also acknowledges the honor in wearing Allen's No. 73, carrying on a tradition of the Cowboys bestowing current players with legendary numbers like wide receiver CeeDee Lamb wearing No. 88, a number that previously belonged to Hall of Famer Drew Pearson, Hall of Famer Michael Irvin and Cowboys all-time receiving touchdowns leader Dez Bryant

"I've always taken pride in it," Smith said of donning No. 73. "It really started the day my name was called (in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft). Just coming in here, contributing to the room. Taking care of the culture the right way. Being the best that I can possibly be. Honoring those that have sacrificed for me and honoring those that have sacrificed before me. It's always huge for me. I will continue to wear it well for sure."

Teammate and All-Pro pass rusher Micah Parsons guaranteed Smith will continue to honor Allen's all-time legacy with his first All-Pro selection soon. Smith's presence and eventual need for a long-term contract was one of the reasons why Parsons wasn't disappointed with Dallas' inactive offseason in 2024. 

"It doesn't disappoint me," Parsons said on June 4 at Cowboys minicamp when asked about the Cowboys' lack of moves this offseason. "If you kind of figure out how the money goes and the money goes, you kind of understand that business side. I think CeeDee takes up the value of two or three players. You're talking about $30-plus million a year, that's two or three guys. If you do that (make a lot of moves), how can you afford to pay CeeDee Lamb? That goes for other guys potentially. We have seven All-Pros or whatever the count may be, it might be more, it might be less. We got at least three guys I know can be All-Pro. I think (tight end Jake) Ferguson can be an All-Pro guy. I think a lot of guys are to have a breakout here. I think that plays into account, too. Tyler Smith, I think he'll be First Team All-Pro, and you have to think about him towards the future. When you talk about all these guys, it just needs to say 'Hey, when are the other guys going to step up and be better for the team?'"

Now that Smith is one of the most experienced players in the Dallas offensive line room along with seven-time First-Team All-Pro right guard Zack Martin and right tackle Terence Steele, he understands the newfound responsibility he has both on and off the field to be a steady presence with the Cowboys welcoming new starters at left tackle and center in 2024. 

"There's a big leadership role when it comes to that," Smith said. "I definitely take pride in our [offensive line] room and how we do things. We always do things the right way. That's something all of us older dudes in there are just trying to stress. 'Just do things the right way, do the right way all the time and be consistent with it.'"