PHOENIX – Regardless of whatever other business they tend to, it’s the unfinished part that prompts all the questions.
The NFL’s offseason is speeding along. The Cowboys arrived in Arizona this week for the NFL’s annual league meetings, and the draft is already just one month away.
But while the Cowboys continue to sign free agents and inquire about other possible additions, it’s their own star player that prompts all the speculation. As it sits in late March, DeMarcus Lawrence remains un-signed – and Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones didn’t have much of an update about when that might change.
“It’s in the works,” Jones said Monday. “We’re communicating. That’s what you’ve got until you actually meet to sign the contract.”
It’s been almost a month since the Cowboys placed the franchised tag on Lawrence, guaranteeing him a one-year, $20 million contract with the team. But unlike last spring, when Lawrence happily signed the tag, it’s clear in 2019 that both player and club have dug in for a spirited negotiation.
“You can have times when you feel real good, feel like you’re making progress, and you can have times when you don’t feel as good,” Jones said. “This isn’t in any way unique to DeMarcus.”
Jones has a point on that front. Contract disputes are an annual part of league business going back for decades. Speaking to reporters from the Arizona Biltmore, Jones brought up his prior negotiation with Emmitt Smith, who famously sat out the first two games of the 1993 season during a contract dispute.
“Any of you that know my relationship with Emmitt Smith today know that that’s a memory we smile about,” Jones said.
Perhaps Lawrence and the Cowboys will smile about this in the future. Signing a life-altering contract has a way of easing tensions between two parties.
In the meantime, it doesn’t sound likely that Lawrence will participate in the Cowboys’ offseason program without a new deal. There’s also the matter of his lingering shoulder injury, which he has not yet undergone – and might not until he gets a new contract.
Asked about that, though, Jones provided a fairly straightforward economics lesson. Given the volatile nature of football, not to mention the size of the contract Lawrence can command, full health sounds like a pretty big sticking point for the Cowboys’ brass.
“We’re all aware, as it turns out, this is a contract to play football and the first year is a big one,” Jones said. “At the kinds of dollars we’re talking about, it’s just a given that you’d get the full year at top, physical condition, that’s what you’re getting. If you don’t get that it depreciates what you’re doing. It works both ways.”
That circles things back around to the beginning. From the sounds of it, the Cowboys and Lawrence haven’t made a ton of progress. As late as the hour might feel, though, they also have time. The deadline to reach a long-term deal with a franchise tagged player is July 15, which is still nearly four months away.
So the questions will persist, and Jones will keep answering them. He didn’t seem particularly bothered by the situation as it stands, noting that he has no intention of being “cavalier” about it.
After all, as he pointed out: he’s done this a few times before.
“This is a significant thing for not only our franchise but DeMarcus’ life,” he said. “It would make anyone be very, very judicious as they are working through the terms of this agreement. So the fact we don’t have something done today is not inordinate when you look at the things that are at stake here.”