The Dallas Cowboys want to sign defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence to a long-term deal this offseason. They’d prefer doing that instead of using a franchise tag on Lawrence, who is set to become a free agent.
“Our first goal is to sign him to a long-term deal, obviously,” Executive Vice President Stephen Jones said from the Senior Bowl. “To me, the only reason you use a franchise tag is to hopefully protect yourself if you can’t get a long-term deal signed that you like. That’s normally the route we like to go.
“Certainly, we’re going to roll up our sleeves and see if we can do something with DeMarcus without having a franchise tag.”
The Cowboys and Lawrence have until 3 p.m. March 6 to reach a long-term deal before the organization has to designate him with a franchise or transition tag. The Cowboys and Lawrence can still negotiate a long-term deal after the tag is put on him, although some players opt to not sign the franchise tag and hold out in hopes of getting a new deal.
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It’s unclear what route Lawrence would go in that situation, but Lawrence didn’t sound like a player who would be disappointed with a franchise tag during the season. After all, that would likely pay him in the $17 million range for 2018.
The Cowboys also don’t sound like an organization overly concerned about Lawrence’s long-term health. This is a player who had undergone a pair of back surgeries by the age of 25.
Lawrence underwent back surgery after the 2015 season, and then had another after the 2016 season when he registered just one sack in nine games.
“We think his health is good, long term,” owner Jerry Jones said. “We just think his health is good. I wouldn’t address any aspect, but we think his health is good. He’s got a lot of years. His best years are ahead of him.”
Lawrence had by far the best year of his career in 2017, and one of the best by a defensive linemen in recent years for the Cowboys.
Lawrence had a team-leading 14.5 sacks, more than double the second-place man — David Irving, with seven. The 2014 second-round pick out of Boise State became the first double-digit sack artist for the franchise since Jason Hatcher had 11 in 2013.
The 14.5 sacks were tied for second-most among pass rushers in the league. Lawrence and Jacksonville’s Calais Campbell each had 14.5. Arizona’s Chandler Jones led the league with 17.
Most impressive may be that those 14.5 sacks led to a total loss of 160 yards for opponents.
Lawrence had a team-leading 52 quarterback pressures, double the second-place man – Tyrone Crawford with 26. In other words, Lawrence had more QB pressures than Crawford (26) and Maliek Collins (25) combined.
Outside of getting pressure on the quarterback, Lawrence impressed with his play in the run game. Lawrence finished eighth with 43 tackles, according to the coaching breakdown, with six tackles for loss and four forced fumbles.
“I’m real rewarded and proud for the Cowboys and our fans that DeMarcus is the player that he is, as demonstrated by his season last year,” Jerry Jones said. “His last season was a big plus for all of us.
“I want to look to getting in here and having him and what a player he is, and having that benefit us with wins, in the future,” he said.