The Dallas Cowboys exhausted a second-round pick on former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith in last year’s draft. They did so knowing full well that the star defender likely wouldn’t make an impact as a rookie.

Smith suffered a serious knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State in his final college game. The injury itself  involved nerve damage (more on that here).

It was a risky selection for the Cowboys, but one that they figured could pay big time over the long term. After all, Smith was considered a lock to go in the top five prior to the injury.

Now, as the Cowboys prepare for the playoffs, all indicators seem to suggest that Smith will be able to return in time for Dallas’ organized team activities this upcoming offseason (via the Dallas Morning News).

As it relates to Smith himself, he believes he could have made an impact during the playoffs.

“I¬†think I could have played and competed at an elite level,” Smith said, “but with us coming together and realizing the situation with the nerve coming back, we’re going to be patient and trust God’s timing.”

The Cowboys are smart to play it cautious with Smith. As his nerve continues to regenerate, the risk of injury is heightened the sooner he comes back. By giving him a couple extra months before he returns to action, the Cowboys are making the smart decision here.

They invested over the long term with Smith. The idea here wasn’t to throw him to the wolves in a playoff game. That in and of itself would make no sense.

Dallas has a first-round bye in the playoffs after finishing the regular season with an NFC-best 13-3 record.