The big news from the Dallas Cowboys organization on Tuesday doesn’t involve Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott or Amari Cooper. The Cowboys have extended linebacker Jaylon Smith on a five-year contract worth $64 million. The contract includes a $35.5 million guarantee, making Smith the third-highest paid inside linebacker in the league: behind C.J. Mosley and Bobby Wagner.
The 2016 second-round draft pick missed the entirety of his rookie season after suffering a significant knee injury that included nerve damage. Smith was a stand-out star at Notre Dame. When the Cowboys drafted him, the fear was that he would never return to that level of play. Since that time, Smith has played in 32 straight games, starting 22 of those games.
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Smith recorded a position-high 27.8% pass-rush win percentage and the second-best pass-rush grade (84.8) among linebackers in the 2018 season. Smith is already playing at an elite linebacker level, competing with the best inside linebackers for supreme ranking. There’s no doubt that Smith will be the defensive anchor for America’s Team.
The question now arises: when will the Cowboys extend their three offensive stars? Elliott is still holding out of training camp while both sides try to reach common ground on a new contract extension. Elliott still has two years remaining on his rookie deal.
Prescott and Cooper aren’t holding out, but Prescott is reportedly asking for roughly $40 million per year from the Cowboys. That’s nearly double what most people were speculating his yearly salary to be, if you base it off his production. Asking for such a high amount of money is completely off-brand for Prescott. If you value Cooper on production, that places him around the $16-$18 million range.
Officials from the Cowboys organization have praised Smith for his willingness to be a leader on the field and keep distractions at a bare minimum. The same can’t be said for Elliott, who could be hurting his stock within the organization by continuing a holdout. Elliott may have less pull with the Cowboys after the recent emergence from Tony Pollard, who had 51 total yards and a touchdown in their first preseason win against the Los Angeles Rams.
For being labeled “America’s Team”, the Cowboys have lacked postseason wins, with their last Super Bowl win and appearance being in 1996. Signing their stars at a reasonable amount is the sure-fire move to make to place the Cowboys back in championship contention.