OXNARD, Calif. — While talks with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper have mostly stalled over the summer, the Dallas Cowboys have signed a key piece to their future with linebacker Jaylon Smith agreeing to a deal, sources told ESPN.
Smith was set to become a restricted free agent after this season, but he opted to take the security of a longer-term deal now rather than going through a potentially protracted negotiation.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones hinted at the possibility of an extension getting finalized that did not include Prescott, Cooper or Elliott on Aug. 13.
Talks were first broached in the spring between Smith’s agents and the Cowboys and with negotiations with the offensive stars stalled, the discussions picked up during training camp.
Perhaps Smith’s history played a factor in him seeking an extension early.
In 2016, he was projected as a top-five pick but suffered a major injury to his knee, tearing two ligaments and suffering nerve damage that scared away many teams from selecting him. The Cowboys took him in the second round, No. 34 overall, in part because one of their physicians, Dr. Daniel Cooper, performed the surgery on Smith.
The Cowboys knew Smith would not play his rookie season, but now view him as a cornerstone piece after his comeback.
Because Smith spent the 2016 season on the non-football injury list, he did not earn an accrued year toward free agency, which is why he would have been a restricted free agent following the 2019 season.
Smith has not missed a game in his two seasons and has been credited with 249 tackles by the coaches. He started every game in 2018 and finished second on the team in tackles (150) and had four sacks, five tackles for loss, 13 quarterback pressures, four pass breakups, two forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.