The Dallas Cowboys displayed their reservations about the future of restricted free defensive tackle David Irving by placing the second-round tender on him.
Free agency began Wednesday.
The tender offer of $2.91 million is modest, considering Irving’s talent. He had seven sacks in eight games last year.
He had four sacks, five tackles for loss, 26 quarterback pressures and forced four fumbles in 15 games, including two starts in 2016.
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But his character and commitment to football remain a concern to the Cowboys.
He missed the first four games under NFL suspension in 2017 and the last four with a concussion.
The second-round tender puts a placeholder on Irving, allowing the Cowboys to retain him for one more year to see if he matures before he hits true unrestricted free agency.
But it also makes him susceptible to being poached by another team signing him to an offer sheet.
The Cowboys have right of first refusal and the opportunity to match any deal Irving gets from another team. If they choose not to match, then the Cowboys would get a second-round pick as compensation.
As much as the Cowboys would like Irving around for 16 games to pair with Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence as a potent pass-rushing combo, while seeing if he can fulfill his immense talent and potential, they also wouldn’t mind picking up that extra second-round pick.
The Cowboys could have removed the chance of an offer sheet by placing a first-rounder tender on Irving, guaranteeing him, $4.14 million. The difference in money of $1.2 million is not that significant.
So the decision to go with the lower tag speaks volumes.
But at least Irving got tendered.
The same can’t be said for fullback Keith Smith.
As expected, the Cowboys did not extend even the low tender of $1.9 million to Smith, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Cowboys value Smith as a lead blocker and contributions on special teams.
But they felt $1.9 million was too much for the minimal snaps he plays.
The Cowboys would like to sign Smith to a multi-year contract extension at a lower rate, but he is going to test the market as well.
The Atlanta Falcons are a team that is expected to be interested in his services.