Mac Engel

‘Stay woke’: Cowboys’ Tank Lawrence feeling Aaron Rodgers’ franchise tag complaints

Tank Lawrence is finally healthy and ready to sack

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Tank Lawrence discusses his injuries in 2016 and his team's outlook for 2017 (Video by Mac Engel/Star-Telegram).
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Dallas Cowboys defensive end Tank Lawrence discusses his injuries in 2016 and his team's outlook for 2017 (Video by Mac Engel/Star-Telegram).

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one of the more insightful, and outspoken, players in the NFL these days, so when he talks, people need to listen.

He’s no fan of the NFL’s “franchise tag,” which Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus “Tank” Lawrence signed in the offseason.

In a recent entertaining and wide-ranging interview with The Ringer, Rodgers was made NFL Commissioner for a Day; in the interview, Rodgers said one of the first things he would do is eliminate the franchise tag.

Rodgers is dead on. No player should like the franchise tag. Ever.

The franchise tag is a collectively-bargained rule that allows NFL teams to give a player a one-year contract that equals to at least the average of the top five players at that position. Basically, it’s a way to give a good player a lot of money up front without giving him a long-term extension.

Rodgers said, “I think that gives the team a lot of power over your future, and they can tag you a couple of times. That, obviously, restricts player movement. I think if you didn’t have it, it would encourage teams to get deals done earlier and in the long run it actually might save them money.

“Because you’re doing a guy’s deal a year before he’s ready to play, especially young guys. Maybe they get him for cheap and, if he has a huge season his last year, cheaper than they would have gotten him after that season, if you sign him early.”

After finishing second in the NFL in sacks in 2017, Lawrence was an unrestricted free agent whom the Cowboys’ “slapped the franchise tag” on; he will make $17.1 million this season.

You could probably live on that.

Maybe.

Tank doesn’t sound quite aligned with Rodgers’ thought process, mostly because he gets that the NFL is a nasty business.

“It’s a good topic to bring up, but if we can’t make a change it in the next 48 hours, I really don’t care. I’m stuck with it,” Tank told me after Sunday morning’s walk through practice. “It is what it is.

“At the end of the day, we all know it’s a business. They are going to do whatever they can to protect their assets. Say I did go out and get those 14 1/2 sacks, and they did give me a big contract, and then I’m not performing the way I’m supposed to ... it’s what it is.”

I asked him, “You can’t like that.”

“I mean, you think I do like it?” he said. “But I deal with it. You gotta learn how to play the game better than everybody else. Stay woke.”

Hard not love a guy like that.

Tank is 26, and eligible to become a free agent after the season. Tank has dealt with back issues before, and if he puts up another giant season the Cowboys could use the franchise tag on him again.

By NFL rule, the Cowboys could slap the franchise tag on Lawrence again in 2019. They used the franchise on linebacker Anthony Spencer in ‘12 and ‘13.

Tank is not ready to completely echo Rodgers’ sentiments towards the franchise tag, but he’s not exactly thrilled with this part of the process, either.

Lawrence had two sacks on Monday in Washington. Video by Drew Davison.

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