ARLINGTON, Texas – Ever since the Cowboys drafted him in the second round of the NFL Draft back in early May, DeMarcus Lawrence said being an NFL player wasn't exactly "official."
Despite being a second-round pick (34thoverall) and participating in rookie minicamps, OTA practices and even part of a full-team minicamp, the missing piece was signing the dotted line to his contract.
Lawrence was able to complete that process on Wednesday, which is seemingly the final step to reality.
"It feels official now. It's real," Lawrence said this week, just minutes after he signed his four-year contract worth about $5.5 million. "I'm not saying I was ever really worried about. That's something I let my agent control. But until you sign and officially become a Dallas Cowboy … I'm just excited to get that out of the way and now it's all about football."
If there was the slightest bit of the distraction for Lawrence this offseason, that has to be a good sign for the Cowboys, who seem more than pleased with the rookie's progress. Although the pads have to come on, Lawrence has been highly competitive in practice, especially in the one-on-one battles with Tyron Smith, a Pro Bowler who is now considered one of the best left tackles in the league.
"I think that's really helped me. He's a great player," Lawrence said of Smith. "Things that worked in college don't always work here. Guys like him have seen everything when it comes to moves. So you have to work harder to be better. I think I've done a good job with that.
"He might win some of them. I might win some, too. But overall, I think it's going to be a good thing to face him every day."
According to his position coach, Lawrence already has a trait most pass-rushers can't lean on so early in their careers.
"This kid has some strength to him," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "He's a lot stronger than I thought he was. He's got some power moves that he uses to his advantage. You don't always see that from young guys. They have to get in (the weight room) and eventually it's something they can add to their game. But he's got that power right now. I think that's going to help him this year."
Helping out this year is a downright must for Lawrence, whom the Cowboys made sure didn't get past them in the draft. That's why they used a third-round pick to move up from No. 47 to 34 to draft the Boise State standout, who they had rated as the third-best pass-rusher in the draft. Add that to the fact the Cowboys desperately need to improve the pass-rush with DeMarcus Ware now gone, and Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff gone from the middle.
So does Lawrence feel the pressure?
"I don't think like that," he said. "I'm just here to play ball. I put a lot of pressure on myself anyway. I want to come in here and contribute and be a playmaker. So I already have those expectations." [embedded_ad]
While the Cowboys have yet to announce a depth chart, Lawrence has been working mostly with the second-team defense in the team drills. Tyrone Crawford and Jeremy Mincey have been the outside rushers, however Lawrence gets more reps in the first-team nickel defense. Whether or not he starts, Lawrence will definitely have a spot in the rotation that will likely consist of eight or nine linemen.
"I just want to get better right now," Lawrence said. "I don't focus on (starting) or playing time. I just get out there and try to do my job. I think it'll all work out. I'm just concentrated on getting better and that's it."
Especially now that he's an "official" member of the team.