"Amazing" and "inspiring" are far from the first words anyone would use to describe the 2017 Dallas Cowboys. In fact, they truthfully shouldn't be used at all following the Cowboys' 9-7 season that fell short of the playoffs. Both of these terms -- along with just about every other positive one there is -- apply to linebacker Jaylon Smith, however.
Playing a full 16-game NFL schedule that few thought would ever be possible, the 34th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft made the Cowboys' investment in him more profitable by the week.
It took a "redshirt" year to start his career out of Notre Dame, but now Jaylon Smith has declared himself back to normal -- just in time for the team to enter an offseason of self-reflection and roster evaluation.
Jaylon Smith: "There are no more tests or anything that's going on. All of that stuff is out of the picture. It's just a matter of timing. But for me, I can tell you and my play can tell you from the past weeks that I'm back.
Jaylon Smith finished his season with 81 tackles and one sack, good for fourth on the team.
For over a year, the Cowboys tried to sell their fans on nothing but optimism for Smith through his terrific approach at working to see the field. Perhaps unfairly, they put Smith in a position where he had to produce as much as he did in 2017 once returning to ever vindicate his draft selection.
Week by week, following a win or loss, Jaylon Smith made progress this season. There were outstanding highs mixed with lows that made even the loudest Smith supporters swallow their pride just a bit -- myself included when I called for the team to protect their developing defensive leader by placing him on IR.
The most important stats for Smith to take away from this season still shouldn't be that incredible total of tackles. The number of games played (16) and number of regular trips he'll have to make to trainers, doctors, and surgeons (a happily decreasing total) moving forward are much more important.
With the reliable Anthony Hitchens set to hit free agency this offseason, the Cowboys have learned that they can rely on Jaylon Smith.
A player that never doubted himself, the team chose him as their nominee for the Ed Block Courage Award this season. This nomination was a tip of the cap to not only Smith, but all of his teammates and the medical staff members who made his return possible.
Adding talent at linebacker around the 32-year old Sean Lee, who missed five more games this season, will again be an important discussion for Cowboys Nation leading up to the draft and free agency.
Does this look like the Jaylon Smith we saw in college? https://t.co/MfcRK9ZgUh
Having Jaylon Smith himself say that he feels ready to put a difficult past behind him and focus on being this team's middle linebacker of the future is as exciting of an offseason development as you'll find though.
All of the Dallas Cowboys plans on defense for 2018 will include Jaylon Smith continuing to find ways to defy the odds and make big plays. A deeply talented player with the traits to line up at multiple positions across any front seven, a lot could (and should) be asked of Smith moving forward.
They believed in me. America's Team ❤️ #ClearEyeView https://t.co/ZylnXCtJGw
After all, moving forward isn't anything new to #54.
Cowboys Trade for FB Jamize Olawale from Raiders
Less than a week after the Cowboys lost fullback Keith Smith to the Raiders in free agency, the two teams have worked out a trade to send FB Jamize Olawale from Oakland to Dallas.
Fullback trade! The #Raiders are sending FB Jamize Olawale to the #Cowboys, sources say. Dallas has its fullback, one who was with Oakland since 2012.
To facilitate the trade, the Cowboys will send their fifth-round pick (173rd overall) to the Raiders for their sixth-round pick (192nd), moving back just 19 spots.
In return, Dallas not only brings in a veteran replacement at FB but a player they already know.
Jamize Olawale was an undrafted rookie free agent of the Cowboys in 2012. Despite a strong showing in that preseason, Dallas did not have room for him on the roster. He was on the team's practice squad until December, when Oakland poached him.
Since then, Olawale has been a regular roleplayer in the Raiders' offense. He's missed just six games since 2013.
Jamize brings more offensive firepower to the FB position than Keith Smith had. He's scored at least one touchdown in each of the last three seasons. He can be effective both running and receiving.
Through the trade, Dallas picks up the final year of Olawale's current contract. It calls for a $1.5 million base salary in 2018.
Dallas Cowboys to Re-Sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for 2018
Continuity is the key to good special teams play in the NFL. Already losing long-time Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia to the Raiders - who promptly snatched ST aces Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber in free agency - the Dallas Cowboys have announced their intentions to re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for the 2018 season.
Returning on a one-year deal, the fan favorite Ladouceur will be back to do what he does best in cleanly executing almost every special teams snap for Chris Jones or Dan Bailey to handle.
Long snapper L.P. Ladouceur will re-sign with the Cowboys on Monday, according to sources, on a one-year deal. He will be in his 14th season with the franchise. Only Jason Witten, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Bill Bates and Mark Tuinei will have more years of... https://t.co/yTQbMYyrIv
While Jones has improved as the Cowboys' punter with each passing season, Kicker Dan Bailey actually enters 2018 as another question mark on this unit. With the general belief around the team being that Bailey will be just fine moving forward, the Cowboys will no longer have to worry about who handles long snaps next year either.
L.P. Ladouceur is back in the silver and blue, and in this moment, everything can be alright with the world.
Report: Raiders Sign Former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber
A Free Agency period filled with departures continued for the Dallas Cowboys today, as the Oakland Raiders have reportedly signed the now-former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber.
The Raiders have signed LB Kyle Wilber: https://t.co/TaC6cqjval
Wilber has been with the Cowboys since 2012, and has played in all 16 games four of the past five seasons. Most of his time has come on special teams, but he did provide solid linebacker depth for the Cowboys since joining the team.
Dallas has now lost both Wilber and Anthony Hitchens, depleting their linebacker depth even further over the last couple weeks.
The Raiders have now signed two key special teams contributors for the Cowboys in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber this offseason. Hopefully Dallas can replace these types of "replacement level" players throughout the rest of the offseason, especially during the NFL Draft.
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