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Does FB Keith Smith have a Future with the Cowboys?

Brian Martin

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Keith Smith: Will The Cowboys Carry A Fullback In 2017?

As things stand right now, Keith Smith's future with the Dallas Cowboys is unclear. He is currently a restricted free agent (RFA), which means the Cowboys hold all the leverage and it's up to them to decide whether or not he'll be back in 2018.

In case you're wondering, an RFA is any player with an expiring contract who has exactly three accrued NFL seasons. An accrued season is defined as a player being on a team for at least six regular-season games, although practice squad designation doesn't count. The reserve physically unable to perform (PUP) list for non-football injuries also doesn't count as an accrued season.

A restricted free agent is different from an unrestricted free agent (UFA). A UFA is free to re-sign with their team or test the open market, whereas an RFA is tied down unless the team allows them to become an unrestricted free agent.

As an RFA, Keith Smith is kind of in a holding pattern while the Dallas Cowboys figure out whether or not they want to keep him around.

He has value to the team, but can that be replaced with another player who would cost less?

Keith Smith

Dallas Cowboys FB Keith Smith

The Cowboys, of course, have options in regards of what to do with Keith Smith. They can try to work out a contract extension that is mutually beneficial to both parties or they can place a tender on him and secure his services for at least another season. Both options are likely on the table, but which one will they choose?

Of course, they could cut ties altogether as well.

For me, I don't know if giving Keith Smith a contract extension is worth it. The fullback position has pretty much become extinct around the NFL. The Cowboys are one of the few teams who still employ the position.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like Keith Smith, but I don't know if the playing time he receives justifies an extension. He only played 12.02% of the Cowboys offensive snaps in 2017. For comparison sake, Ryan Switzer played 8.64% and we all know how little he was utilized.

I just have a hard time justifying a contract extension for someone who plays so little on offense. But, like I mentioned earlier, he is a core special-teams player. In 2017, he played 56.64% of the special team snaps, which was top five on the team. That is where he is most valuable to the team.

Keith Smith

Dallas Cowboys FB Keith Smith (Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)

The other option the Cowboys have is placing a tender on Keith Smith. There are four tender options they can use to retain his services.

  1. First-round tender ($3.91 million in 2017)
  2. Second-round tender ($2.746 million in 2017)
  3. Original-round tender ($1.797 million in 2017)
  4. Right of first refusal

It wouldn't make sense for the Cowboys to place a first or second-round tender on Keith Smith. He doesn't play enough to justify that kind of money. An original-round tender doesn't make sense either since he was an undrafted free agent. Leaving the Right of First Refusal as really the last remaining option.

There's really no clear-cut answer to what the Dallas Cowboys might have in mind for Keith Smith and his future with the organization. There is no doubt he has value to the team, but there's really no way of determining just how much.

Personally, I think he can be replaced rather easily. The Cowboys may need to carry four tight ends on the roster in 2018 and one of them can surely fill in at fullback if needed. His contribution on special teams is another story, but an incoming rookie could help in that area.

I think I might let him walk, but I wouldn't be shocked if the Cowboys retained his services. The only question is, how do they do that?

What do you think the Dallas Cowboys will do with Keith Smith?


Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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6 Comments
  • Pete186

    Honestly, we should see if we can do better in the draft with one of those supplemental picks. If not than retain him.

    • Brian Martin

      I’m kind of leaning towards letting him walk. I think the Cowboys TEs can fill in at FB. Swaim did it in college and there’s no reason to believe he can’t do it in the NFL.

      • mgmiller717

        We went down that road of having TE’s fill in, and everyone was screaming for a true fullback lol. Dallas is a run first team, sign him to a reasonable 2 year extension or move on to another FB in the draft, but don’t go back to the “TE’s can do the job” BS. A 6’4″ TE is NOT a prototypical lead blocker.

  • EverybodyTalks

    I like him, but he has been underutilized, even though he has shown some talent as a receiver. I question the reason for a FB to take up a roster spot.

    • http://www.dallascowboyschat.com Cowboysdude

      Well let me answer that for you…….it’s the attempt of the current regime to try to replicate the 90’s which they have neither the talent at the coaching level nor the players to do so……..

  • Wayne A Caddell Jr

    Why is the Fullback position being phased out? Daryle Johnston was an absolute reason for Dallas to have 3 rings. He’s one of those “hard nose meat and potatoes” type of guys. Remember, he made several special team plays himself. He delivered a devistating block on Bill Romanowski protecting Troy Aikman. I think it’s a bad idea to phase this position out. But like in all things, it’ll go away then come back

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys OL Fails To Crack NFL.com’s Top 10

Kevin Brady

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Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, offensive line

Often considered a top unit in football, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line seemed to take a step back in 2017. Mostly due to injuries and free agent departures on the left side, the Cowboys were unable to form the same solid unit we have seen in years past.

Despite their struggles, most would still consider them a top 5-10 offensive line in the NFL. At least, that's what I'd expect considering they still feature three All-Pro caliber players upfront.

Matt Harmon of NFL.com put together a list of the top 10 offensive lines in football based on performance in the 2017 season. The list was strictly developed through the use of next gen stats, which defined pressure as "pass-rushing play in which a defender gets within 2 yards of the opposing quarterback at the time of the throw or sack." In addition, "yards gained before close" was taken into account. This metric is meant to measure "the amount of rushing yards a running back gains before opposing defenders come within 1 yard of the player."

After compiling all of these stats, the Cowboys offensive line was left off of the list completely. Maybe even more surprising, however, was that the Philadelphia Eagles' line failed to crack the top ten as well. That's two lines with 3-4 Pro Bowl caliber players each missing the cut.

According to Matt Harmon the Cowboys allowed a pressure on 28.6% of Dak Prescott's dropbacks, 12th highest in the league. Dallas also ranked 20th in the league in YGBC in 2017.

While I do have some issues with the methodology of these statistics, the final result is actually hard to argue with. Down the stretch the Cowboys offense was downright pathetic at times. Regardless of how highly we thought of them prior to the year, the offense didn't perform to their standards, or the standards of a top ten unit.

Heading into 2018, however, I do expect this offensive line to begin to regain form. La'el Collins should continue to improve on the right side, and he is already an adequate starting right tackle regardless. I also expect Dallas to address their left guard spot, potentially within the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.

In the end the success of this line may hinge on the health of Tyron Smith, though. When healthy, Smith is the best left tackle in all of football. But that "when healthy" caveat has certainly hurt the Cowboys offense.

The way the front office handles their offensive line this offseason will play a huge role in the success, or lack thereof, of the Cowboys in 2018.


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Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere

After playing sparsely for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, veteran cornerback Bene Benwikere is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Could he stay in Dallas, or will he have to find work elsewhere?

Dallas was concerned about its CB depth with heavy reliance on young players and Jourdan Lewis barely participating in the offseason. Therefore, the Cowboys traded a sixth-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Benwikere just before Week One.

After a stellar rookie season with the Carolina Panthers in 2014, Bene had suffered a steep fall before landing in Cincy. Injuries and poor play got him cut midway through 2016 by the Panthers, and then Benwikere bounced from Miami to Green Bay before finally signing with the Bengals in the 2017 offseason.

Though a few years removed from being an All-Rookie Team standout, Bene Benwikere is still just 26 and may still draw interest from scouts who remember his better days. He is likely counting on that, because the Cowboys' secondary is starting to fill up.

Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere 1

Dallas Cowboys CB Bene Benwikere (#23)

The Cowboys currently have exciting sophomores Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis expected to start in 2018. Anthony Brown is back for his third season and will be active on game days.

Orlando Scandrick's future is cloudy, but Dallas won't get much cap relief from releasing him this season. They may elect to keep the veteran for one more year, which would all but fill out the CB depth chart.

Even if Scandrick leaves, talk that Dallas may move Byron Jones back to corner from safety would only leave Benwikere in the same disadvantaged position for finding work.

The best chance that Bene Benwikere has to stay with the Cowboys is if new Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard remembers him from 2014. Coaches often feel that can get more out of a player than the last guy, and Richard may see potential in Benwikere that his last few teams couldn't unlock.

Four years ago may be too long, though, and especially with a fresh new crop of young players coming into the league. Especially if they keep Scandrick, Dallas may want to use the rest of their roster spots on younger prospects.

As it stands, Bene Benwikere is unlikely to return to the Cowboys. However, given the flashes of potential he once showed in the NFL, you can't be certain that Dallas won't want to give him one more chance.


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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: OL Joe Looney

Jess Haynie

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Joe Looney, 49ers
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys backup offensive lineman Joe Looney was active for all 16 games of 2017 and never had to start. That is exactly what you want from a reserve player, and Looney has been relied on as security for the interior o-line for two years now. However, he enters 2018 as an unrestricted free agent.

A six-year veteran, Looney turns 28 years old in August. He has two years in the Cowboys system and is still in his physical prime. Able to play guard or center, "Jumbo Joe" is a nice value with versatility and familiarity.

Dallas got Looney on the cheap in 2016, signing him to a two-year deal at just $1.68 million. While he hasn't been seen much over the last two seasons, coming out of the Cowboys' offensive line could raise his profile in this free agent market compared to last time.

For example, the last guy to hold Joe's role in Dallas was Mackenzy Bernadeau. Dallas paid him $5.7 million from 2014-2015 to be the versatile backup at guard and center. Looney is at a comparable point now in his career.

Joe Looney

Dallas Cowboys G/C Joe Looney

Dallas may not want to give Joe Looney that kind of raise, but they may have to given other issues on the line. Starting guard Jonathan Cooper is also a free agent and was injured in Week 17. Chaz Green was tried at guard last year and failed.

Even if they didn't need Loooney to play guard, he is also the backup center and the currently the best candidate on the roster for that role.

While nobody wants Looney as the starting left guard in 2018, but Dallas may not want to give Cooper a new deal given his injury history. La'el Collins appears locked in at right tackle, so the Cowboys may feel the need to pay more to keep Looney in case the offseason doesn't provide a better option.

If the Cowboys are inspired to retain Joe Looney, it could mean raising his annual salary from about $800k to close to $3 million. Even with more cap flexibility than they've had in recent years, that's still a big jump that Dallas won't take lightly.

Clearly, Joe Looney's return in 2018 is not an easy decision. He could be a solid veteran depth option for some teams and might even find starting work if someone's desperate enough.

With Dallas facing some uncertainty on the offensive line, that gives Looney the leverage in any upcoming contract negotiations.


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