As the Dallas Cowboys continued their training camp in Oxnard, at least one team member had reason to smile on the practice field today. Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith inked an eight-year extension to his rookie contract that will net him up to $98 million, $40 million of which is guaranteed.
All told, the deal will keep Smith under contract through the 2023 season and, together with the last two years of his current deal, pay him as much as $109 million. Smith is now the highest-paid left tackle in the NFL based on average annual salary.
It’s easy to second-guess any massive contract. For one, blockbuster contracts don’t tend to work out for the Cowboys. Miles Austin, Roy Williams, Marion Barber and Jay Ratliff are just four examples of contracts-gone-wrong over the past several seasons. When Dallas fans here the words “huge contract” these days, their impulse may be to punch a wall.
There are also some who question whether Smith deserves at this point to be paid like the best left tackle in the NFL (he doesn’t–yet).
Additionally, Smith’s new deal comes before Dez Bryant‘s, which is somewhat curious considering that Smith is under contract for two more seasons, Bryant for just this one. Apparently Dallas is expecting a massive season from Smith and a relatively pedestrian one for Bryant–they would only sign this deal for Smith to keep his cost from getting higher.
After Cowboys announce , 8 year 110 mil dollar extension, Dez Bryant visibly upset in parking lot with staffer and teammate.
— Greg Simmons (@GregSimmonsKSAT) July 30, 2014
Bryant is right to question what this deal means for him. While the team has been negotiating with both players, it is reportedly hesitant to pay Bryant like a top-five receiver and apparently not at all hesitant to pay Smith like the best offensive lineman.
Still, the general sentiment is that Smith’s new contract is much better for the team than for the player. Smith probably could have commanded more per-season than the $11 million he did. The critical factor here is the length of the deal. Smith will be under contract until his age-32 season, at which point he will likely be able to sign a good-but-not-great contract with the Cowboys or another team.
For someone of Smith’s age and potential to tie himself to one team in an era of escalating player salaries and endless haggling is more or less unprecedented. There is no reason to believe that Smith will get anything but better, and while it’s hard to walk away from the kind of money Smith got, a shorter-term and higher-paying deal would have been more than reasonable.
Smith offered a personal explanation for his new deal in a statement posted online. Essentially he talks about how the Jones family helped him through hard times and that he wants to stay in Dallas as a form of repayment. “After careful consideration,” he says, “I decided this long-term deal was exactly what I wanted.”
I hope that’s the truth. For the first time in a long time, the Cowboys may have truly found themselves on the right side of a contract. No oversize cap hits if something goes wrong. No worry about signing a talented but injury-plagued 30-year-old to a long-term deal. Just a young Pro Bowler entering his prime and spending the whole of it in Dallas.
Yes, it’s important that Smith be there for the aging Tony Romo. But this contract is obviously about much more than that. Smith is going to be the franchise left tackle for not only Romo, but for Romo’s replacement–rack up a few more Pro Bowls and we’re potentially talking about a future Ring of Honor member here.
Not to get carried away, but Smith has inspired nothing but confidence in his first three NFL seasons. He is one of the biggest names in a star-studded 2011 draft class, one that will shape the NFL for years to come. And he will do it all as a Cowboy.
Any chance that Dez will sign a contract this good?
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