The Cowboys signed the first of their nine draft picks Thursday when seventh-round selection, Stanford defensive tackle Ben Gardner, inked a four-year deal, according to a source.
Gardner was one of five seventh-rounders the Cowboys drafted on Saturday in a defensive heavy draft.
Gardner, 6-foot-3, 276 pounds, will play defensive tackle and is expected to back up Henry Melton along the line.
A first-team All-Pac-12 selection last season, Gardner suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle. The injury prevented him from participating in the combine, but he was cleared by an independent doctor two weeks ago to resume football activities.
Cowboys officials expect him to participate in the rookie minicamp this weekend at Valley Ranch. Gardner played in just nine games last season, yet had 19 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and one blocked punt.
“The whole process has been long and kind of stressful,” Gardner said after getting drafted last week. “I wasn’t able to finish the season, finish my senior season, which was terrible and then I missed out on the combine, the Senior Bowl and all that. It probably hurt me in my draft stock. Basically at the end of the day you just want to be in a place where you have a chance to succeed, no matter where you are drafted. I think it is a perfect fit in Dallas and I couldn’t be happier about it.”
The Cowboys are trying to finalize the deals for most of their late-round picks this week.
Update: The Cowboys also signed seventh-round pick Will Smith, an inside linebacker from Texas Tech, to a four-year contract.
Smith is one of two linebackers the team drafted. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens, a fourth-round pick from Iowa, is unsigned.
Update: The Cowboys reached an agreement with their third draft pick of the day in cornerback Terrance Mitchell, their last of nine selections.
Mitchell, from Oregon, was the 254th pick. He intercepted seven passes in 38 starts, including a team-high five in 2013. He will compete with B.W. Webb and Sterling Moore for one of the final cornerback spots.
Like Gardner and Smith, Mitchell received a four-year deal with a $420,000 base salary in 2014.
The Cowboys would like to sign most of their draft picks before the rookie minicamp ends over the weekend.