The start to the NFL’s free-agent signing period is March 13. But the Cowboys, like all teams, can negotiate contracts with their own free agents before they hit the open market.
Of course, that market is exactly where some of these expected free agents are anxious for, to see exactly where they stand and kind of value they offer to other teams, or perhaps the Cowboys once again.
Today, let’s take a closer look at a handful of free agents-to be for the Cowboys and make a case for them to either return or hit the open market.
Lawrence won’t be an unrestricted free agent after the Cowboys placed the franchise tag on him last week for $20.5 million. Obviously, the two sides were hoping to land a long-term contract that will keep the defensive end in Dallas for years to come. That is still a possibility, but the urgency isn’t the same now that the two sides have until July 15 to negotiate a contract before the start of this year.
Making the Case: The reason to get this done sooner than later hinges on D-Law’s need to get surgery to repair a torn labrum. Reports have suggested Lawrence is waiting to sign a contract, which means the longer he waits to have the surgery, the possibility looms that he could miss parts of the season. That alone should have the two sides working together to resolve this matter.
Forecast: The Cowboys love what Lawrence brings to the table, more than just a defensive end that gets to the quarterback. He’s a run-stopper who has played with pain and has been a positive leader in the locker room. The Cowboys and Lawrence don’t want this to turn ugly so look for a contract to be completed long before the July 15 deadline. The tricky part is some of the other defensive ends around the league that also need new deals such as Jadeveon Clowney and Dee Ford, and it’s likely those players and their agents are waiting for the Cowboys to get a contract signed with Lawrence. Once one of them signs first, the rest will likely follow soon after.
Cameron Fleming, OT
The Cowboys signed him last year as an insurance policy in case Tyron Smith went down. That move turned out to be a great acquisition for the Cowboys as Fleming started two games late in the season with Smith (neck) out. The Cowboys were able to continue their winning streak even with Fleming at left tackle.
Making the Case: The Cowboys know what Smith has dealt with the last few years and having a player such as Fleming is vital, especially considering he can play left and right tackle and even some guard. There’s no doubt the Cowboys view him as a top priority to re-sign.
Forecast: Getting Fleming back on the team seems reasonable, but it’s likely that he will test the market just to see if there is a shot to start somewhere else. Even at that, the Cowboys might make him an offer that makes the most sense to stay in Dallas.
Tavon Austin, WR
He was acquired last year to provide a spark in the offense and that never really materialized for a couple of reasons. Not only did he miss 10 games due to injury, but he wasn’t a featured part of Scott Linehan’s offense. Maybe Kellen Moore would use him differently if given the chance?
Making the Case: The Cowboys don’t really have a speedster like Austin and haven’t for a long time. What he provides on special teams is also rare and that was on display in the playoff game against Seattle.
Forecast: Austin won’t be the top priority for the Cowboys, who also have Cole Beasley hitting the market as well. Look for Austin to get some looks from other teams and if the Cowboys end up retaining Beasley, there might not be room for Austin as well. However, it might be easier to bring back Austin over Beasley. This one will be interesting for sure.