The greatest sports comeback story ever just keeps getting better.
The Dallas Cowboys have extended linebacker Jaylon Smith through 2025 with a 5 year $64 million contract, with $35.5 million guaranteed at signing per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Smith becomes the fifth-highest paid linebacker in the NFL while having the third-highest guaranteed money at signing at the inside linebacker position.
While Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, and Amari Cooper all negotiate themselves with the front office, Jaylon Smith flew under the radar to give the Cowboys another true leader for this defense to pair up with DeMarcus Lawrence, who earned himself a new contract in the offseason as well. At just under $12 million per season, the Cowboys get a massive steal in this contract extension. He ranks behind Bobby Wagner ($18M), CJ Mosley ($17M), Deion Jones ($14.25M), and Luke Kuechly ($12.35M) in average salary per season.
Scrutinized for drafting Jaylon Smith in the second round of the 2016 draft, the Cowboy’s calculated risk paid off big, as Smith ended his 2018 campaign with 121 total tackles, 82 of those being solo, and 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, while running one back for a touchdown. Smith was never expected to play football again after his injury in the Fiesta Bowl at Notre Dame, tearing his ACL and MCL, suffering nerve damage in the process. Despite the odds, Smith is continuing to cement himself in history as one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history.
What this means for Zeke, Dak, and Amari is that the Cowboys will prioritize the team over one or two individuals. Elliott has been absent from training camp and preseason games with hopes for a new contract himself but has not accrued any penalties by way of fines yet. Jerry Jones has stated in the media that “the precedent of the team comes first,” as Jones and Zeke are in a battle through the media in order to gain leverage over one another. If Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout extends into the regular season, he would miss around $224,000 per game, and for a running back still on his rookie contract, that is no small number, or for ANY person at that.
With Cooper dealing with plantar fasciitis, he is expected to be ready for the regular season. He is looking for a new contract with a salary in between $16-19 million per season after Michael Thomas signed a new contract, which obviously affects Amari Cooper’s negotiations. Last season, Cooper finished with 75 receptions and 1,005 yards with 7 touchdowns, with six of those coming in a Cowboys uniform after being traded for in week 8. He’s the defacto number one wide for this team, and he’ll be worth every penny for this offense.
With Dak Prescott, he is easily the most polarizing player of the offseason. Reports in and out of training camp have reported that he was looking for a contract in the $40 million per season range, which was then disputed by his own agents. In another media tug-of-war, the Cowboys will need to make a decision as soon as possible, as the price for quarterbacks keeps raising per season. If Prescott is the future, and they absolutely believe that he will bring a Super Bowl championship back to Dallas, then the money will be worth it. If they don’t believe that Prescott can be the next champion, then they will need to make the decision to move on from the young signal-caller.
The Cowboys are at the beginning of a season that has sky-high potential, and with the Zeke Saga hanging over the Cowboys, this season will only get more interesting. Jerry Jones and this front office have their work cut out for them.