Tuesday afternoon, the message went out. The Cowboys were planning a press conference to "announce a contract extension for a current member of the team's roster."
Sound the alarms, right? One of the team's ongoing contract headaches was about to be solved, bringing the team a step closer to being ready for opening day against the Giants in three weeks. Had to be.
It wasn't. One of the biggest clues was in the wording of the press release itself. Running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboy with the biggest contract problem in need of solving, is not, by virtue of his electing to sit out the first few weeks of training, technically a member of the Cowboys roster.
The alert could've been for quarterback Dak Prescott or wide receiver Amari Cooper, too, but that turned out not to be the case. Instead, Jerry Jones and company were summoning everyone to The Star in Frisco to celebrate the Cowboys giving a five-year, $64 million contract extension to linebacker Jaylon Smith. Of the $64 million, $36 million is guaranteed for the Notre Dame graduate.
Smith achieved his big payday — he joked at the press conference about being able to retire his mom earlier than he expected — despite suffering a catastrophic left knee injury at the end of his college career, missing the entirety of his first NFL season in 2016 and then struggling to regain his lateral speed and agility when he returned to the field in 2017.
Last season, Smith finally fulfilled the potential he showed in South Bend at the pro level, forming half of one of the NFL's most dynamic linebacking duos with rookie Leighton Vander Esch. He's getting paid like a star, which is good for him, but not like the superstar he could become, which is good for the Cowboys.
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While Tuesday was a day to celebrate Smith and everything he's been through, Elliott's holdout, along with Prescott's and Cooper's desire for new deals, were the elephants in the room.
“There is less pie left, make no bones about it,” Jerry Jones said of the deal with Smith.
Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said he was confident Smith himself, in addition to his agent, played a big role in the contract extension.
"I'm willing to bet a lot that Jaylon is the one who initiated this," Stephen Jones said, "and that's why we were able to get it done."