Cowboys sign LB Jaylon Smith to five-year extension

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The Dallas Cowboys locked down a core young player, but not one of their triplets on offense.

The Cowboys reached agreement on a long-term extension with linebacker Jaylon Smith, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Tuesday. The Cowboys announced the deal later.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Tuesday that the extension is for five years and is worth $64 million, including $35.5 million guaranteed. Smith is now under contract through the 2024 season.

Smith was set to be a restricted free agent after the season. The linebacker missed his entire rookie season due to a devastating knee injury suffered in his college bowl game while at Notre Dame.

Despite the injury, the Cowboys took a calculated risk selecting the playmaking linebacker in the second round of the 2016 draft, betting the would-be first-rounder would pay off down the line.

The risk paid off in spades for the Cowboys, and now cash for the linebacker.

"You took a risk, a $4.5 million risk had I never been able to play again," Smith said to the Jones during a press conference on Tuesday. "Me understanding that, it was my duty for them to get their return on their investment. They've been able to do that, and now I'm fortunate enough to really be a Cowboy for life, which is what I wanted."

Fully healthy, Smith proved to be one of the best sideline-to-sideline linebacking playmakers in the league last season, starting 16 games and compiling 121 tackles, four sacks, four passes defended and two forced fumbles. A stout run defender with speed to keep up with tight ends and running backs in space, Smith is the ideal linebacker in the modern NFL.

Paired with Leighton Vander Esch, Smith gives the Cowboys two of the best young all-around linebackers in the NFL and the core to a rising defense.

Smith was one of several young Cowboys in search of a contract extension ahead of the season. Dallas still has Ezekiel Elliott (holding out with two years left on his deal), Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones in need of new deals.

"It is neat that Jaylon understands that when you have a solid roster, you have as many high quality young players as we have, you have to allocate your resources wisely to keep and have all of those players," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday. "You have to do that. That's called team building. And I will assure you this was about team."

Asked whether there is enough "pie" left over in Dallas for Prescott, Elliott and the rest to get their new deals, Jones said, "The reason there is pie left is because we have kept some left. That's why there's pie left. And that's why we're gonna be where we are because we want to have some pie left, for others.

"There's less pie left, make no bones about it."

Last week, Jones indicated the Cowboys' first deal done might not be one many expected.

"Would it be better if we can get one of the players done (before the season) than to not have any done of the ones you're talking about? The answer is yes," Jones said last Tuesday. "What may surprise you is we may come up with one that you haven't been asking about."

The surprise was Jaylon Smith, but it is well worth it.

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