Mac Engel

This is the reason why the Cowboys have not gone all in with DeMarcus Lawrence... yet

Jerry Jones says Cowboys want DE DeMarcus Lawrence back but are taking a holistic approach to free agency, roster

Jerry Jones says Cowboys want DE DeMarcus Lawrence back but are taking a holistic approach to roster and free agency with a 3 year approach
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Jerry Jones says Cowboys want DE DeMarcus Lawrence back but are taking a holistic approach to roster and free agency with a 3 year approach

If the Dallas Cowboys wanted to give their best defensive player a long-term deal they would have done it. They would have done it last year. They would have done it by now.

Defensive end Tank Lawrence kept his mouth (mostly) shut when the Cowboys put the franchise tag on him last year. Tank will blow if they do it again.

As much as he may like Jerry Jones and his family, no Cowboy not named Romo or Garrett should trust their contract situation.

Jerry always says don’t get mad over money. Give me a billion dollars and let me try. Most of America (the world?) is mad over money.

Tank is.

This is his shot at the contract all NFL players dream of signing, and he doesn’t want to miss.

As many similarities that exist between Tank and the last guy the Cowboys tagged two consecutive years, there is a striking difference that divides Lawrence from Anthony Spencer, even if they basically played the same spot: Tank is a player every other NFL team wants.

But there is a reason why the Cowboys have not gone long yet with Tank.

There is a fear he is going to get hurt. Because he has. The Cowboys don’t want to sit on a giant contract for a guy who can’t play.

For the moment, the Cowboys will not put the “Franchise Tag” on Tank for a second consecutive off-season; they are doing so in “hopes” of working out an extension before the March 5 deadline to use that tag.

The Cowboys today are not in that much of a different spot with Tank in ‘19 than they were with Spencer in ‘13.

THE CASE OF ANTHONY SPENCER

Spencer was a first round pick from 2007 who briefly developed into a nice player for a few seasons. He was good, and never as dominant as Tank.

Spencer also generated some numbers because DeMarcus Ware was on his opposite side. Tank helps other people generate numbers.

In 2012, the Cowboys put the franchise tag on Spencer, when he was 28. A franchise tag is the average salary of the top five players at that position, which was $8.8 million for an outside linebacker.

The Cowboys wanted him, but feared going long with him.

He had a career season when he finished with 11 sacks and 95 tackles. He was a Pro Bowler on an 8-8 team that had an ish defense.

In 2013, the Cowboys were fighting to be average. Spencer was the best, or second best, defensive player on an average defense.

Again, they put the tag on Spencer for a second consecutive off-season, the maximum a team can use it for one player. He was paid a little more than $10 million in a season where he was moved to defensive end.

The Cowboys wanted him, but feared going long with him. Not because of injury, but rather that he would not perform to the level of a big, guaranteed deal.

Spencer suffered a knee injury in the first game of the ‘13 season and did not return until the next year. But he still got paid. He came back from his knee injury in ‘14, but he was no longer the same player.

Spencer never signed the big, monster extension that every NFL player covets, but he did make just under $20 million in the two years he played under the franchise tag.

THE TANK LAWRENCE PROBLEM

Whereas Spencer was a nice player and a good pro who had value, the Cowboys could have finished 8-8 without him.

No one with the Cowboys has any such illusions about being as good without Tank as the team is presently constructed. Randy Gregory is a good, developing defensive end, and he is also not Tank.

He is the best defensive player on a top 10 defense. He’s not Aaron Donald, or J.J. Watt, but Tank belongs in the chat as one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL.

Age is not the issue; the concern is cash, and that he has had some injury issues, namely a back problem earlier in his career. Backs make GM’s nervous.

And the Cowboys are looking at a slew of major names who are facing extensions soon. Amari Cooper is going to want to get paid. Byron Jones will want his. The same for Ezekiel Elliott. And Dak Prescott.

The Cowboys like Tank, because everyone likes Tank.

But there is a reason they have not given their top defensive player a long term deal yet.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.

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