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With all the talks of contract extensions around the Dallas Cowboys, many thought the first to be signed would be either bell cow running back Ezekiel Elliott or darling quarterback Dak Prescott. Next in line may have been newcomer wide receiver Amari Cooper, or lockdown cornerback Byron Jones. However, Jerry Jones had different plans when he made the big-hitting inside linebacker Jaylon Smith an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Before we breakdown the contract, let’s look back at Jaylon’s interesting story as an NFL player. He finished junior season at Notre Dame by winning the Butkus Award (college football’s top linebacker) just before tearing his ACL & MCL with significant nerve damage in the Fiesta Bowl. A probable overall top 5 NFL draft choice, turned into a question mark of if he will ever be able to play the sport he grew up loving, ever again. Smith declared for the 2016 NFL Draft with scouts projecting him to go anywhere from the 2nd round to the 6th round with teams unsure how quick he could recover, if at all. The Dallas Cowboys selected him 34th overall. It was a gamble, but one that Jerry did not want to miss out on like he did with Randy Moss 18 years prior.
Once Jaylon became a Cowboy, he did everything he could to make it back on the football field. When he did, in 2017, he did not disappoint, recording 81 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and a sack. He only started 6 games, but played in all 16, a milestone in and of itself. The next season was a breakout year for both him and the Cowboys 1st round draft pick Leighton Vander Esch. They finished the season as one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL, all the while working as if they were given nothing and had to earn everything.
The overall numbers: $5 million signing bonus, $35.5 million guaranteed, for a total of $64 million over 6 years.
This seems to be a cap-friendly deal, Every. Single. Year. With the NFL salary cap steadily increasing $10 million a year since 2013, the $12-13 million cap hits from 2022-2025 will be a bargain for a quality starting linebacker and team leader, that wants to be a Dallas Cowboy for life.
Jaylon Smith’s goal was to allow his mom to retire, and he has definitely accomplished that. All the while, still giving the owner and team that took a chance on him 3 years ago, the ability to build a Super Bowl contending team around him.
Zeke and Dak did Jaylon a huge favor this preseason, by holding out and asking for a ridiculous $40 million/year deal, respectively. Zeke angered one of, if not the only person, that had his back through every personal issue on and off the field. Jerry Jones will treat a player he loves like family; but, turn on him, and he will do the same in return. It looks as if both agents will have to go back to the drawing board with the Cowboy’s front office, while Jaylon Smith slowly inches his way up the fan-favorite list in Cowboy Nation. Look to see a lot more #54 jerseys in the stands this year as Jaylon Smith just signed a contract to be in the Silver & Blue for at least 10 years.
Just one year removed from retirement, Jason Witten has decided to leave Monday Night Football to do what he was born to do, compete on the gridiron. The future Hall of Famer, second only to Tony Gonzalez in TE receptions and reception yards, will dust off his cleats for at least one more year with America’s Team.
The Dallas Cowboys have released the following statement from Witten, ” The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong. This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship. This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it. I’m looking forward to getting back in the dirt”.
Witten will be 37 when the regular season starts for his 16th season. In 2017, Witten was a Pro Bowl selection with 63 catches for 560 yards and 5 touchdowns, starting all 16 games. His retirement after the season left the Cowboys with a question mark at the tight end position for the first time in 15 years.
The response was a tight end by committee with 4 tight ends, only one of which even had an NFL stat sheet prior to the 2018 season, in Geoff Swaim. All four tight ends (Gathers, Jarwin, Schultz, and Swaim) started at least 4 games in 2018, and combined had only 5 more receptions than Witten in 2017, and one less touchdown. With Geoff Swaim being an unrestricted free agent, and the other 3 salaries combined being less than $2 million for the 2019 season, it seems unlikely to see Swaim back in a Cowboys uniform.
The contract details for Witten have not been released yet, but he qualifies for a very cap friendly figure with veteran minimum benefits. The 2019 veteran minimum salary for players with 10 or more years of service is $1.03 million, with only about $650k of that counting against the cap. It is not known if this is the route that Witten and the Cowboys will go, or if he will be getting paid a salary closer to his $7.4 million salary for 2017. Seeing as he appears to be coming back more for a championship run rather than for money to pay off debts, the former seems much more likely.
Assuming that #82 is healthy and ready for another grueling NFL season, this will make the Cowboys offseason that much easier by being able to focus on other positions in free agency and also with the several looming contract extensions of Lawrence, Jones, Zeke, and Dak. This may also convince Sean Lee to make his 2019 salary more cap friendly for a team desperate for its first Super Bowl in 24 years.
Welcome back 82!