Why Dallas Cowboys Jaylon Smith is a leader to build around

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 23: Jaylon Smith #54 of the Dallas Cowboys walks off the field after the Dallas Cowboys beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-20 at AT&T Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 23: Jaylon Smith #54 of the Dallas Cowboys walks off the field after the Dallas Cowboys beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-20 at AT&T Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

It’s the summer of the contract for the Dallas Cowboys and the second one signed this week. Will the remaining players follow the leader or will they insist on maximizing their value?

In April, Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman DeMarcus Lawrence leveraged his pending shoulder surgery into a five-year, $105 million contract. It is safe to say that Lawrence maximized his value with this contract.

The Cowboys offensive triplets took notice. Quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper entering the last year of their rookie contracts reported to training camp while their agents and the Front Office continue to negotiate their next contact.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott took a different approach. With two years remaining on his rookie deal that pays him in 2019 with the eighth highest average per year salary for his position factoring in his fifth year option, Elliott decided to withhold his services and not report to training camp.

Supposedly, the Cowboys offered contracts to all three that would pay them in the top five average for their positions. Apparently, each player was not satisfied with the offer as all remain unsigned.

This week, linebacker Jaylon Smith signed a five-year extension worth $64 million. Adding the $2.1 million cap hit from the last year of his rookie deal and his fifth year first round tender the Cowboys would have offered to the equation means Smith signed for the next seven years at an average per year rate of $9.85 million.

Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner who would have been the Cowboys second round pick in 2012 had they not moved up to select cornerback Morris Claiborne recently smashed the middle linebacker market signing a three-year extension worth $54 million. With the last year of his previous contract, his four-year salary cap hit average is a little more than $17 million.

It is clear that Jaylon Smith left some money in the “pie” so that others could have some to eat. Here’s what Smith told DallasCowboys.com just last week.

"“For me, I’m going to be a Cowboy and a Cowboy for the rest of my life. They took a risk on me.”"

I felt that he would be the next player to sign a deal. At only 24 years old, Smith recognized that he would be financially set for the rest of his life and was willing to sacrifice several million dollars so that the Front Office could use the savings to sign other really good players.

He recognized that the Cowboys brand is a premier brand and that there will be other opportunities to recapture some of the money he left on the table. These same opportunities are likely not available if you play for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Both Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his son, Executive Vice President Stephen Jones, have commented that the team friendly deals they are trying to negotiate are not saving the Cowboys any money. They intend to distribute the money to the players but want to pay as many players as they can before losing them to compensatory draft picks.

In May, Jimmy Kimmel asked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady why he didn’t get paid more. Brady joked that he didn’t want to really answer the question but when he did this is what he had to say. Here’s what the Patriots’ quarterback said according to NFL.com.

"“I’m a little smarter than you think. Actually, it’s a salary cap. You can only spend so much and the more that one guy gets is less for others. And for a competitive advantage standpoint, I like to get a lot of good players around me.”"

Brady would go on to tell Kimmel:

"“Damnit, I want to win! What’s wrong with winning?!”"

This is why many people think Brady is the greatest of all time or GOAT. He has won more Super Bowls than anyone and his willingness to sacrifice money has everything to do with winning and nothing to do with being married to the world’s most famous super model regardless of what Dak Prescott thinks.

Brady is certainly an unquestioned leader for the Patriots. Jaylon Smith just stepped into this role for the Cowboys.

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To all the remaining Dallas Cowboys players looking for your next contract: Are you a leader who values winning or do you want to protect your self-interest and maximize your earning potential? Either way, you will have more money than you likely ever imagined. But only one way maximizes your ability to win.