FRISCO, Texas – Decisions, decisions.
The Cowboys have about 20 of them – if not more – to make here in the next few weeks as we get ready for the start of free agency in mid-March.
Some of the biggest decisions will involve the defensive end position, a spot on the field that is always a top priority.
Rarely does any team, especially the Cowboys, completely overlook the defensive end spot. Pass-rushers are valued at a premium, and that's why the Cowboys will have to decide on what to do regarding the contract status of their two best defensive ends.
One of them – DeMarcus Lawrence – is still under contract. However, the Cowboys could save quite a bit on the salary cap if they part ways with Lawrence, either before or after June 1, to save either $8 million or $19 million on this year's cap.
This might be turning into a chicken-and-egg theory for the Cowboys.
Do they decide first what they want to do with Lawrence and then figure out a plan with Randy Gregory? Or do they decide on what to do with Gregory and then maybe that factors into the decision with Tank?
And of course, the greedy Cowboys fan wants them to find a way to keep both Lawrence and Gregory on the defense. That scenario isn't out of the question, but it surely doesn't seem likely to do that ... and ... keep Amari Cooper on the other side of the ball.
Something clearly has to give with this unforgiving salary cap.
The Cowboys must figure out what to do at defensive end and that should start the domino-effect.
The Gregory situation is definitely unique, considering the fact that he's 29 and has played just 50 games. To compare, Lawrence is also 29 years old but has played in 103 games.
So figuring out a market value for Gregory is tricky – not only because of his prior off-the-field issues that kept him in and out of the lineup and sometimes off the roster entirely.
Gregory played 12 games this past season, missing four due to a calf injury and one to Covid. He had six sacks and proved to be rather unblockable at times of the edge.
Then there's Lawrence, who has been plagued by injuries the last few years, but only last season did he miss considerable time. D-Law missed 10 games with a broken foot but he hasn't missed a single game in the previous four years, despite battling through bumps and bruises along the way.
So calling D-Law "injury-prone" might not be accurate. But the biggest issue regarding Lawrence is just production vs. cost. He received his big contract three years ago that paid him $21.5 million per season, but he's only had 15 total sacks in the last three years, including 3.0 last year.
Tank does provide a level of leadership, pass-rush and run support that isn't easy to calculate, but his price tag is still rather high, especially with so many other players to consider in free agency.
Without a doubt, the Cowboys will figure it all out and will make some tough decisions on many players. But those talks have to begin with Gregory and Lawrence and what to do at defensive end.