When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith with the 34th overall pick in 2016, it was met with a lot of apprehension as some felt it was a wasted pick. After all, Smith had just suffered a gruesome knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl, and it was unclear if he would ever play football again. The injury moved Smith down the draft boards; however, the Cowboys were still high on the Notre Dame linebacker despite knowing he wouldn’t be ready to play football anytime soon. Thanks to some great detective work from this super-cool Cowboys website, we just so happen to know that Smith was the fifth-ranked player on the Cowboys draft board.
From the moment the Cowboys started watching tape on Smith, they were intrigued, causing them to thoroughly investigate the matter. What they found was not just an incredibly talented linebacker, but a guy who was just an incredible person that if it was humanly possible to comeback from such a devastating knee injury, he was the guy to do it.
The Cowboys front office passed up on several great options when they were on the clock in the second round, including Myles Jack, who was another collegiate star linebacker with knee concerns. Obviously Jack had more to offer for the immediate future, but who’s looking like the better choice now?
Smith has worked incredibly hard to get his body right. It’s not just a stroke of good fortune that has allowed him to step onto the football field after such a brutal injury. The commitment he’s had towards his rehabilitation is unparalleled. Jerry Jones said in the new contract press conference that never once did Smith complain about his situation. He accepted his situation and just continued to work.
It’s been this type of demeanor that has captivated the team enough to take such a huge risk. Smith had a long journey ahead of him after the injury. Coming back from such an ordeal is not for everyone. But with his clear eye view, Smith has always had the proper perspective and nothing ever slows him down.
Back in May, we discussed how the Cowboys should go after extending Smith this offseason, and on Tuesday, it came to fruition. The Cowboys made the decision to give him a five-year, $64 million dollar extension, despite only having 22 NFL starts under his belt. It’s a testament to how much they love having Smith a member of this team, but that love is reciprocated. Smith expressed how much it meant to him for the Cowboys to take such a gamble by calling his name on draft day.
“You took a risk,” said Smith. “A $4.5 million risk had I never been able to play again. It was my duty to give them a return on their investment. I’m fortunate enough to really be a Cowboy for life, which is what I wanted.”
The new deal for Smith gives him financial security as $35.5 million of it is fully guaranteed. While that may seem like a blessing for a guy who some thought might never play the game of football again, it could end up being a bargain for the Cowboys. Smith’s new deal ranks fifth-highest for linebackers. C.J. Mosley just got a new deal as well, only it will cost the New York Jets $21 million more over the course of the five years. Last season, Smith had more tackles, sacks, and forced fumbles than Mosley. He also had one more defensive touchdown as Smith picked up a fumble and ran it back 69 yards.
While the contract looks like a good deal right now, it has the potential to be a screaming deal as the Cowboys 24-year-old linebacker is just getting started. With each new day, he’s getting stronger and faster as the days become further removed from his knee surgery. The team has acted quickly before by extending players like Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick before they entered the final year of their rookie deal. Granted, they had already achieved All-Pro status before they re-signed, but the team got a good deal by being proactive. Tyron and Travis are now the ninth and seventh highest paid players in the league at their respective positions. With Smith yet to reach his full potential, the Cowboys front office could be looking like financial wizards here in a couple years.
For Smith and the Cowboys, this is the perfect marriage. The organization made a huge sacrifice and now it’s paying off in a big way. The team just recently extended All-Pro edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence and now they’ll have another Hot Boyz VIP member locked down for years to come. And Jaylon is a guy that is just so fun to root for, especially when plays are ending with him swiping the turf.
Well done, front office.
Jaylon's extension adds another six years to his current deal, averaging out to $10 million per season over the next 7 years. That's only $1 M more than what Anthony Hitchens makes.— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 21, 2019
What a screaming deal for Dallas to land this future All-Pro LB for so many years to come! pic.twitter.com/JMkeT1Kjbo