But how long does Smith envision himself in silver and blue? He hasn’t thought that far ahead.
“I’m extremely grateful for the Cowboys giving me a chance. I mean, I appreciate that. I’m not thinking about next season. I really just want to — I want to win. I want to keep getting better every week, and I want to keep getting better every week,” Smith told reporters Thursday, via ESPN’s Todd Archer.
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The former 49ers first-round pick is one of the few untouchable pieces on Dallas’ roster. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported last Saturday the Seattle Seahawks contacted the Cowboys about Smith and were told he’s not available for trade — and in fact likelier to ink a contract extension.
“He’s playing well, he’s generating pressure, and the Cowboys said, ‘We are not trading this guy. He is signed for this year.’ So likely a lucrative extension to stay in Dallas [is] coming for Aldon Smith,” Garafolo said.
Returning from a half-decade-spanning NFL suspension, Smith has been a rare Cowboys bright through seven games, collecting 35 tackles (22 solo), nine quarterback hits, and a team-leading five sacks across 409 snaps (72.91%). He’s on pace for his first double-digit-sack campaign since 2012.
Credit to Will McClay and the scouting department for identifying Smith, 30, as an offseason target. And kudos to the front-office for landing the ex-Pro Bowler on clearance: a non-guaranteed one-year, $2 million deal rife with bonuses and sack incentives. He has a base salary of just $910,000.
Smith, who turned 31 in September, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. But the 2-6 Cowboys, still in win-now mode as part of a terrible division, aren’t ready to cross that particular bridge, either.
“We’re in this to still fight. We’re in the NFC East. It’s obviously a division that is struggling right now,” team VP Stephen Jones said Monday when asked about the Smith trade rumors, via the Dallas Morning News.
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Jerry Jones Confronts Prospect of Tanking Season
There are no “Losing For Lawrence” or “Failing For Fields” missives in Dallas — purposely throwing the season for a top college prospect, also known as “tanking.”
But if the Cowboys, who have dropped three straight, spend the remainder of the year evaluating their young talent and just so happen to land a better draft pick in the process? So be it, says owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
“The more people you have on the field in a sport, the less you get into driving the car, relative to certainly effort. You can erase that from an individual player’s performance. Tanking has nothing to do with the performance of a player or coach. The performance of getting better. The performance of the things you do to try to win the ballgame, in my mind,” Jones explained Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan. “Could you make a decision to play a younger player more, or a player that you’re going to be pretty firm that you’re going to be going forward with contract wise than a different situation, and the answer is, I can see that, yeah.
“I can see making sure that you get these guys those reps. The only way to have and get better in the NFL is (to get) reps. And game reps are precious and hard to come by. You don’t get them by just that issue, if you’re sitting there competing for a championship. So I think young players should be doing it anyway. Candidly, you may be playing those players out there anyway. I don’t see it as bright a line. Maybe, you’d say, ‘Jones, you’ve never seen anything bright-lined in your life.’ And, maybe, that’s right. The point is, I don’t see bright lines with any part of that definition.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL