FRISCO, Texas – It sounds strange, but apparently the key to these negotiations was an actual conversation.
Moments after DeMarcus Lawrence signed a contract to become the highest-paid player in Cowboys' history, that was the lesson learned. In the process of exchanging offers and negotiating multi-million dollar contracts, sometimes the human element can fall by the wayside.
"Sometimes in these negotiations, it get lost that you're really still on the same team," said Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones. "If you don't watch out you can turn into having it be confrontational."
It certainly seemed like the Cowboys and Lawrence were heading down that road, with neither side coming close on a contract agreement – and with the Pro Bowl defensive end requiring a shoulder surgery.
Then came a game-changing phone call last Thursday – an air-clearing conference call that shifted the tone of the conversation, and rapidly pushed things toward a deal.
"Basically to hear all of us come together like we have a meeting ground -- this is where you're at, this is where I'm at, let's meet in the middle and get it done," Lawrence said. "Once that conversation took place we still had our ups and downs -- that's just all about negotiations -- but it was actually faster than what I thought."
Lawrence isn't kidding in that regard. After a contentious couple of months, Lawrence hopped on the call with the Cowboys last Thursday, and he had the ground work for a $105 million contract in place by Friday afternoon.
"We talked, so like the weekend's coming up – I'll probably get something up on Monday or something," Lawrence said. "It just went back and forth, and it was like 'Man we here.' That's when all the butterflies came."
Judging from the smile on his face at Tuesday's press conference, it doesn't look like Lawrence's butterflies have gone away – and why would they. With help from his agent, David Canter, the 26-year-old pass rusher just signed a contract that is scheduled to pay him $21 million per year over the next five years. Even more important, the deal includes $48 million in guaranteed money over the first two years, and an extra $17 million in guarantees next March.
"I have so many emotions going on right now. It's hard for me to take it in," Lawrence said. "I'm just blessed to be in this position in my life, throughout all my surgeries, throughout all the highs and lows of my life. It's just humbling to be in this position and thank God for everything he has put me through."
It's a life-changing contract – and not just for Lawrence. The two-time Pro Bowler was joined at the press conference by his fiancée, Sasha, and their son, Demari. It wasn't lost on Lawrence what this type of pay day could mean for his son long after he's done playing.
"Just what this contract is going to do for his kids, long-term, after I'm dead and gone – it's just a lot to take in. I'm very humbled by it," he said.
That circles things back to the human element. Football is a zero-sum game, and massive contracts aren't offered out of the goodness of anyone's heart. But given the chance to hear each other's stance, the two sides were able to reach common ground.
"I think it's great to get on the phone and see there is a mutual respect there," Jones said. "I think he felt, sometimes you feel like they're against me, but we're really not. We're rooting for him."
With the pen now put to paper, it's safe to say there isn't any more doubt about that.