Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys place second franchise tag on Lawrence. But that’s not going to cut it

The Dallas Cowboys officially placed the franchise tag on star defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence for the second straight season and he is not happy about it, sources tell the Star-Telegram.

Do not expect Lawrence to sign to the tag, to have shoulder surgery, or attend any of the OTAs or other off-season workouts until a long deal is agreed to.

What’s frustrating to Lawrence, who played under the tag last season and proved himself worthy with another strong season, is that doing a deal shouldn’t be hard to do.

The 2019 franchise tag of $20.5 million is the floor. Chicago Bears defensive end Khalil Mack’s 6-year, $141 million contract that includes a $34 million signing bonus, $90 million guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $23.5 million is the ceiling.

Meet in the middle and get it done.

By placing the franchise tag on Lawrence ahead of the Tuesday deadline allows the Cowboys more time to negotiate a deal with their prized DE and to keep him off the market in the interim. The Cowboys have until July 15 to sign him to a long-term deal. If they don’t, Lawrence will have to play on the franchise tag and there is chance he might not show until the start of the season and potentially miss games.

The Cowboys have said since the end of the season that Lawrence is the Cowboys’ top priority in free agency after fashioning two seasons as good as any edge rusher in the NFL.

He recorded 64 tackles (42 solo), 15 tackles-for-loss, 10.5 sacks, and 23 quarterback hurries in 2018. In 2017, he recorded 58 tackles (35 solo), 14 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, and 26 QB hurries.

Vice president Stephen Jones expressed confidence at the NFL scouting combine last week that they could get a deal done. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

“It certainly was complete and everybody got to say what they wanted to say,” owner Jerry Jones said when asked about the negotiations with Lawrence at the combine. “On things like this, you really don’t know how good they were until you get it done or make a different decision. It’s just not accurate to say because it implies a certain amount of tangible things that you could agree on something but if you agree on something else in a different way you change that something you agreed on 20 minutes before. So the thing has to end up totally being a whole deal to have an agreement. I’m not trying to arm wave here but I just think that we’re in it and everybody and he certainly has every incentive to get an agreement done and we do too.”

Whatever that means.

The bottom line is that nothing has been done and Lawrence is not happy.

With defensive Randy Gregory suspended indefinitely for violating the substance abuse, the Cowboys have no other pass-rush options and little leverage while playing this game of chicken with their best defensive player.

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Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.