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Jaylon Smith, Cowboys both cash in on draft-night gamble – Dallas Cowboys Blog

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FRISCO, Texas — On April 29, 2016, Jaylon Smith was at a bowling alley in Indiana when he took a phone call from Jerry Jones.

“It’s great to be talking to a Dallas Cowboy,” the team owner and general manager said moments after drafting the linebacker with the No. 34 overall pick in the second round.

On Tuesday, three years later, Jones hurriedly flew back from NFL collective bargaining talks in Chicago to be by Smith’s side in announcing a five-year extension that is worth $64 million and includes $35.5 million guaranteed.

When the Cowboys drafted Smith, they did not know if he would be able to play because of two torn ligaments and nerve damage in his left knee. More than a year into his time with the team, he could not lift his foot on his own.

The Cowboys’ draft-night gamble was an all-important backdrop to Tuesday’s announcement.

“Going into the draft night back in 2016, not knowing if I would be drafted at all, not knowing if I would ever play the game of football again, a lot of people didn’t know,” Smith said. “But I knew. And the Cowboys knew.”

Dr. Daniel Cooper, the Cowboys team physician, performed Smith’s surgery and gave positive reviews. Director of rehabilitation Britt Brown, who helped Dan Marino recover from a torn Achilles tendon many years ago, worked endlessly with Smith.

Smith has played in every game over the past two seasons. He started every contest last season, finishing with 150 tackles, according to the Cowboys coaches’ count. He filled every major statistical category except an interception. There were only two NFL players last season who registered 120 tackles, at least four sacks and multiple forced fumbles: Smith and Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, who was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Smith said the emotions he felt in signing the extension were similar to that of draft night in 2016.

“Understanding what I’ve been through and a lot has transpired since the injury. I couldn’t lift my foot for a year and two months, and that entire time these guys didn’t have to pay me full salary my first year,” Smith said. “They were able to show their true belief in me. I was in every meeting. Every home game. Stayed after while they were practicing I was with [Brown], who’s like my second father, getting right and rehabbing the knee. The thing about nerves regenerating — the doctors say it’s supposed to grow a millimeter a day. But really, it’s on God’s time. It comes back when He wants it to. So all of us knowing that, it was just a matter of time.”

As Jones spoke about Smith on Tuesday, his chin quivered with emotion. He knows the work Smith put in just simply to play. At the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony in Canton, Ohio, earlier this month, Jones spoke with Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis.

“What I said was, ‘You know about him [Smith]. You know what he can do on the field. You know what he can do there, but what I will tell you is that there’s internal brightness,'” Jones said. “He glows. I said, ‘You’ve got that, Ray, and it lifts your team. Michael Irvin has it. He’s got it.”

The Cowboys knew Smith wouldn’t play as a rookie, but they were willing to take the chance. Without the knee injury, Smith would have been a top-five player on their draft board.

Dallas executive vice president Stephen Jones said “everything has played out to plan.”

“It will go down as one of the great picks that this organization has ever made,” he added.

The injury will always be part of Smith’s story.

“If I could go back, I would do it all over,” Smith said. “I mean, it’s just a true testament to my clear-eye view, which I’ve always talked about having. A focused vision, determined belief, earned dreams. I mean it really fuels my fire. My injury was televised publicly throughout the country. Everyone knew about it … God was able to work through me and for people to really be able to see that you can persevere.”

The lasting effects of the injury played a part in Smith signing the extension now, when he was under contract for two more years.

“Understanding business and that cash is king,” Smith said.

But he also yearned to be a Cowboy for life.

“I wanted to be part of the most prestigious brand in the world. I recognized that,” Smith said. “And I’m a team guy, as well. I’m a leader. Eventually, I’m going to be a captain for the Dallas Cowboys. I know it and I feel it and really be able to exemplify greatness on and off the field.

“And in order to win, you need guys, and I view myself as one of those guys.”



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Cowboys’ Jason Witten wants to play in ’20, open to other teams

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FRISCO, Texas — Jason Witten wants to play another season but acknowledged it might have to be with a franchise other than the Dallas Cowboys.

“I think I have to be,” Witten said when asked if he’s open to playing elsewhere. “Obviously I’d love to finish it out here, but some of those things are not in your control.”

Witten said he met with Mike McCarthy not long after McCarthy was named head coach. He has had conversations with owner and general manager Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones.

While Witten said the talks with McCarthy and Jones were great, he added, “We didn’t get into the weeds of my role and what that would look like.”

He said he will have more discussions after next week’s scouting combine in Indianapolis but before free agency begins on March 18.

Witten caught 63 passes for 529 yards and four touchdowns in his return from a one-year hiatus as an analyst on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. He has played 16 seasons for the Cowboys, a franchise record.

“I still feel like I have something to give,” Witten said. “I’ve obviously been on the other side of that in the decision to retire. Yeah, I think coaching is in the future, but I want to play while I can. We’ll see where that takes place. Of course I want it to be with the Dallas Cowboys and I’ll always be a Dallas Cowboy, but I also understand that with all the changes that I might have to go somewhere else.”

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Source — Ex-Panthers TE Greg Olsen joining Seahawks on 1-year deal

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Former Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen has agreed to terms on a deal with the Seattle Seahawks, the team announced Tuesday.

Terms weren’t released, but a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter the deal is for one year and worth $7 million, with $5.5 million in guaranteed money.

Olsen visited with Buffalo, Seattle and Washington, and he felt most comfortable with the Seahawks, the source said.

Tight end was an area of need for the Seahawks with Will Dissly coming off a ruptured Achilles, his second major injury in as many NFL seasons. Veteran Ed Dickson is a candidate to be released after missing most of his two seasons with Seattle due to injuries. Luke Willson, whom Seattle re-signed after trading Nick Vannett last year, is an unrestricted free agent. Jacob Hollister is a restricted free agent.

Because Olsen was released by Carolina, his addition won’t cost the Seahawks a compensatory pick.

Olsen became a free agent after he and the Panthers mutually agreed to part ways after nine seasons. A three-time Pro Bowl selection who has played 13 NFL seasons, he said he was still interested in playing in the NFL.

Olsen’s cap number for the 2020 season was to be $11,675,000 after he ruled out an extension to lower that number.

After dabbling in broadcasting during some time off, Olsen returned to the field in 2019 to prove that he could still be among the top tight ends in the league. From 2014 to 2016, he became the first tight end in NFL history to have 1,000 yards receiving in three straight seasons.

Olsen, the 31st pick by the Bears in 2007, had 52 catches for 597 yards and two touchdowns this past season. He has 718 career catches for 8,444 yards and 59 touchdowns.

Olsen, who turns 35 on March 11, holds the Panthers’ franchise record for single-season receiving yards (1,104 in 2015) and receptions (84 in 2014) by a tight end.

ESPN’s David Newton and Brady Henderson contributed to this report.

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Ex-Panthers TE Greg Olsen going to Seahawks

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Former Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen is signing a one-year, $7 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter Tuesday.

The contract includes $5.5 million in guaranteed money.

Olsen visited with Buffalo, Seattle and Washington but felt most comfortable with the Seahawks, the source said.

Olsen became a free agent after he and the Panthers mutually agreed to part ways after nine seasons. A three-time Pro Bowl selection who has played 13 NFL seasons, he said he was still interested in playing in the NFL.

Olsen’s cap number for the 2020 season was to be $11,675,000 after he ruled out an extension to lower that number.

After dabbling in broadcasting during time off, Olsen returned to the field in 2019 to prove he still could be among the top tight ends in the league. From 2014-16, he became the first tight end in NFL history to have 1,000 yards receiving in three straight seasons.

Olsen, the 31st pick by the Bears in 2007, had 52 catches for 597 yards and two touchdowns this past season. He has 718 career catches for 8,444 yards and 59 touchdowns in his career.

Olsen, who turns 35 on March 11, holds the Panthers franchise record for most receiving yards (1,104 in ’15) and receptions (84 in 2014) in a season by a tight end.

ESPN’s David Newton contributed to this report.

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