Cowboys need Tyron Smith to become elite

May, 7, 2013
5/07/13
2:29
PM ET
There is so much talk about whether the Dallas Cowboys should keep right tackle Doug Free. A pay cut and he stays. If he refuses, the Cowboys have a decision to make.

What about the starting left tackle Tyron Smith?

It's not like he had a Pro Bowl 2012 season. He finished tied for second in the NFL with seven false starts (Free led the league with eight), but he was still pretty good, allowing just three sacks.

But pretty good isn't enough. The Cowboys need Smith to perform at an elite level. When he was taken with the ninth pick of the 2011 NFL draft, the plan was to eventually move him from right tackle to the left side. Smith made that transition in 2012.

Smith wasn't a dominant tackle last season, and the Cowboys need him to be in 2013.

In 2010, there were two tackles -- Trent Williams and Russell Okung -- who where top-10 picks and have made at least one Pro Bowl. Smith needs to reach that level in Year 3 of his career.

Smith has good power, athletic ability and smarts. The Cowboys rely on him as a stable force on the left side and aren't afraid to run toward his side of the line.

The future looks good for him, but he needs to get better.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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