PHILADELPHIA – DeMarcus Lawrence doesn't know for sure what 2018 is going to bring, but he has a pretty good idea.
What other conclusion could he come to, having wrapped up a season that saw him burst into the league consciousness with 14.5 sacks and 58 tackles – and all of it in a contract year?
"I know I ain't going nowhere, man," Lawrence joked with reporters after Sunday's 6-0 win against the Eagles.
The logic is pretty sound, and it has been since Lawrence ripped off 7.5 sacks in the first month of the season. The 25-year-old has now concluded his fourth season, which means his rookie contract is set to expire and free agency is on the horizon.
That gives the Cowboys three fairly obvious options. They can sign him to a contract extension, they can let him test the open market or they can slap him with the franchise tag – which keeps him under club control on a one-year, fully guaranteed contract.
For a defensive end, that contract should be worth roughly $17 million in 2018.
"I already know what my situation is," Lawrence said. "I really don't care about it, because I know how the Cowboys feel about me and they know how I feel about the organization. My agent will take care of everything."
That's a bit surprising to hear, considering the legacy of the franchise tag. Many players don't like it, because it doesn't offer the long-term security of a multi-year deal.
But for his part, Lawrence is just happy to be healthy enough to make a difference. Back problems hindered him for much of the last two seasons, so it had to have been gratifying to make the Pro Bowl in his first fully healthy season.
"It's a blessing come true," he said. "I'm just happy and grateful that I'm healthy to have this opportunity."
And Lawrence might not be done padding his resume. He didn't finish with any tackles on Sunday, but he was a constant threat to Philadelphia's quarterbacks. On top of that, he helped Datone Jones sack Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld on an effort that may bump his sack total to 15 by the end of the week.
"Being able to get to the quarterback, put pressure on him at all times, it's hard and it takes a lot out of you," Lawrence said. "I've got a good group behind me."
In the wake of such a successful campaign, it's hard not to think of the term "war daddy," which Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones has famously used to describe elite pass rushers. Regardless of whether he finishes with 14.5 or 15 sacks, Lawrence's total is the best by a Dallas edge rusher since DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer were on the payroll.
The point is obvious – quality pass rushers can be hard to find. Teams that find them don't often let them leave. That's what makes it hard to imagine Lawrence's future laying outside of Dallas in 2018. That's why he responded "hell no," when he was asked if he'd considered that he had played his final game as a Cowboy.
Beyond an educated guess, though, it's hard to say for certain what's in store for DeMarcus Lawrence next year. But on the last day of 2017, he didn't sound too concerned about it.
"I really don't know. I can't tell you how much money they've got in their pocket, I can't tell you how they're going to spend it," he said. "I can't tell you if they're going to put the tag on me. I can't tell you none of that. So we're just going to let the chips fall where they may."