MOBILE, Ala. – The Senior Bowl is all about scouting the next crop of Cowboys talents, but that's not going to stop anyone from talking about the current ones.
This is a team facing many big decisions about the stars and its current roster, and who can afford a big payday. But for all the talk about Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott, there's only one guy with a looming contract situation.
Only one of the Cowboys' current Pro Bowlers is facing free agency in March, and his name is DeMarcus Lawrence.
With the Cowboys' 2018 season officially in the books, Lawrence is officially done with his franchise tag year, posting 47 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 39 quarterback pressures. It was an effort Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said made a big impression inside the organization.
Certainly, DeMarcus has done his part to make us feel more comfortable. He's put together now two back-to-back, double-digit sack seasons," Jones said. "Of course he's a leader by example, as well, on the field in terms of how he plays the game. So nothing's changed in terms of my opinion, except for the better, in terms of what type of player DeMarcus Lawrence is for our football team."
Lawrence is currently in Orlando for his second-straight Pro Bowl, which only helps emphasize the reputation he has earned in the last two years. As he has stated numerous times, Jones said it's something the Cowboys want to reward with a contract extension.
"Certainly a huge priority for us to get him signed. We want to sign him up long-term," he said. "I think he's going to play this season at 27 and still a young player and it's still in front of him in terms of him improving and getting better."
Those comments were relayed to Lawrence in Orlando. The Cowboys' defensive end, who said he preferred not to discuss his contract, did offer up a response to Jones' recent quote.
"I'm good. The Cowboys already know what it is," Lawrence said. "They know where I want to be. I got big goals, not just for me, but as a team and as an organization. I love being a Cowboy."
It will be a fascinating situation to watch develop, though. Thinking strictly from a business standpoint, free agency opens when the new league year begins on March 13. A week prior to that is the league's deadline to use the franchise tag.
Recent history shows that big-money deals rarely get done before the new league year, as only three of the 10 biggest deals in the NFL were signed prior to March. But clearly the Cowboys have no intention of letting Lawrence hit the open market, as Jones said they'd use the franchise tag if they had to.
"That's the only person we'd use the tag on, and we're certainly not done yet," he said. "We're not going to not use it. But our goal is to sign him up long-term."
There's plenty of time for those conversations to play out. The Cowboys' front office will soon be off to Orlando, where Lawrence and his representatives will undoubtedly be available. There'll also be opportunities to talk at the NFL Combine in February, among other dates.
When the Cowboys talked to Lawrence last offseason, Jones said the two groups were not "a long ways apart" on contract figures, rather just "apart."
It will be interesting to see whether another Pro Bowl season brings those figures closer together – and how quickly it might happen.
"We'll have those visits," Jones said. "We've got a good relationship with his agent and we'll continue to work on getting this done."