Cowboys won't tender Keith Smith but want fullback to return in 2018

Keith Smith, shown spiking the ball after a Rod Smith touchdown run last season, won't be tendered by the Cowboys but also could be back. Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS -- As the Dallas Cowboys ponder what level tender to put on restricted free-agent defensive end David Irving, they will not extend a tender to restricted free-agent fullback Keith Smith. But that does not mean the Cowboys don’t want him back.

The low tender is set to be roughly $1.9 million, which is a high amount for a fullback who played 12 percent of the snaps in 2017.

The Cowboys would like to sign Smith to a multiyear extension, which would carry a lower salary-cap figure in 2017 but give him some security. The Cowboys have made similar moves with safety Jeff Heath and punter Chris Jones in recent years.

Smith, who converted from linebacker to fullback in 2016, has been a valuable part of the running game and a core special-teamer. He caught five passes for 26 yards, and he was tied for second on the team in special-teams stops with 10 and also forced two fumbles.

There is no question the Cowboys will place a tender on Irving, who had seven sacks in eight games in 2017.

The Cowboys met Irving’s agent, Louis Bing, on Thursday and are looking at the first- or second-round tender. The first-round tag would cost roughly $4.3 million and all but assure that a team would not come after the talented defensive end. The second-round tender is expected to be about $3 million, which could lead a team to make an offer sheet to Irving. The Cowboys will not put the low tender on Irving because he was an undrafted free agent and they would not receive any compensation if he signed elsewhere.

“We have a handle, nothing we want to talk about just yet,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “Those are things we want to continue to discuss.”

Irving missed the first four games last season because of a suspension and the final four games because of a concussion. He has been cleared medically. In addition to the sacks, Irving was credited by the coaches with 12 tackles, 19 quarterback pressures, six pass deflections, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble.