Dallas Cowboys: Can Jaylon Smith live up to his new contract?

As a surprise to some, Jaylon Smith has a agreed to a new contract with the Dallas Cowboys amidst negations with several other key pieces.

After a highly anticipated offseason for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the front office to sign key players to new contracts, it was not Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, or Amari Cooper who was signed first. Rather, it was young, upcoming linebacker Jaylon Smith.

Heading into the 2016 NFL Draft, Jaylon Smith was a potential top-five pick and one of the best defensive players in the entire country out of Notre Dame. In the final game of his career, in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, Smith opted to play rather than sit out in preparation for the draft. In that game, he suffered a devastating knee injury, tearing both his ACL and MCL.

Smith underwent surgery in January of 2016 to repair his knee. This would drastically affect his draft stock, as NFL teams knew he would not be recovered in time to see any action in the 2016 season. The Dallas Cowboys took a risk on Smith, not knowing if he would ever fully recover from this gruesome knee injury which even resulted in some nerve damage with the 34th overall pick.

Fast forward three years; Jaylon Smith is fully recovered and established himself as one of the premier young linebackers in the entire league. Due to his high level of success on the field in just two full seasons of action, he has earned himself a massive contract to play for the Dallas Cowboys for many years to come.

Mickey Spagnola of DallasCowboys.com actually broke down Smith’s new deal in much more detail.

“What was being termed as a five-year, $64 million extension, with $35.5 million guaranteed, actually is a seven-year, $69 million package, with $35.5 million still guaranteed, along with a $5 million signing bonus. That then averages out to $9.85 million over seven years … Remember, this is a five-year extension on his current 2019 contract, and the Cowboys included a bump in pay for 2020 … “

Although Smith has only played in 22 NFL games, is he worth that kind of contract? The stats speak volumes when it comes to Jaylon’s production.

In the 2017 season, Smith finally saw his first NFL action although he was not 100 percent recovered. Even then, he was highly productive, racking up 81 tackles, two forced fumbles, and one sack. He played in all 16 regular season games and even started in six. In 2018, Smith assumed the full time starting position and produced 121 tackles, four sacks, and two forced fumbles.

Smith turned 24 earlier this summer and is now under contract through the remainder of his prime. His deal is good through the season in which he will be playing at 30-years old. His new deal makes him the third highest paid linebacker when it comes to guaranteed money and makes him a top five linebacker in regards to average annual salary.

There seems to be a personal connection between Jaylon Smith and Jerry Jones. In a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Jones had great things to say about him and even got emotional when touching on the hard work and adversity Smith has pushed through.

Assuming Jaylon Smith continues the rapid growth as a professional football player, he will certainly be worth the contract he earned. After being injured in his rookie season and still recovering in his second season, last year was essentially his first true healthy season in the NFL.

Next: Ranking every top-10 pick in Cowboys’ history

Expectations will now be especially high now that Jaylon Smith is making superstar money. Alongside Leighton Vander Esch, Smith and the Dallas Cowboys will remain one of the NFL’s best linebacking cores for many years to come.