The new contract extension for Jaylon Smith feels like an incredible steal for the Dallas Cowboys. The linebacker has already displayed All-Pro potential and was arguably snubbed from last year’s Pro Bowl. Still, Dallas was able to get him signed at a relative discount to other top players at his position.
As I’ve reflected on the details of this signing, I couldn’t help but think of how it contrasted from a couple of the team’s past mistakes. It was encouraging to see, at least in this instance, where the Cowboys seem to have learned from those decisions and exercised some better judgment in Jaylon’s contract.
For example, consider the folly in Tyrone Crawford’s extension from 2015. Dallas tried to get a discount by offering Crawford a handsome extension before he had a breakout year, thinking he would blossom as the under tackle in Rod Marinelli’s defense.
But while Tyrone has been a solid player with position flexibility, he has never been a star. He’s carried one of the highest cap hits for defensive linemen in the NFL the last few years and remains the team’s most overpaid player.
The Cowboys gambled on the hope that Crawford would become something he’d never shown. With Jaylon Smith, they saw him playing at a high level already last season. The only hope is that he’ll continue to be the player they’ve already seen on the field.
On the other hand, think about where the Cowboys are right now in their negotiations with Amari Cooper. Dallas could probably have reached a long-term deal with Amari prior to this offseason, but instead waited until after he added a third Pro Bowl trip and was proclaimed as the savior for their offense. The result is Cooper having far more bargaining power.
Sure, Dallas wanted to see what Amari would do in their offense. But considering they gave up a 1st-round pick to get him, the Cowboys always intended for him to be a long-term addition.
Similarly, the Cowboys always intended for Jaylon Smith to be here beyond his rookie deal. You don’t draft any player 34th overall without that goal, and especially one who you knew would miss his first season recovering from injury.
Rather than waiting until Jaylon had another big year in 2019, likely making his first Pro Bowl in the process, Dallas got ahead of it and signed him up now.
This really is the sweet spot; a balance between expected future performance and what’s already been accomplished. The Cowboys got Jaylon Smith signed up below market value because they didn’t wait too long, but also aren’t making a big leap of faith like they did with Crawford.
We can only hope their other contract negotiations end this well.