Now that free agency has hit, the focus is shifting towards the draft. DallasCowboys.com will feature players who are currently under contract for next season, analyzing their past season and their future prospects.
Today, we continue the series with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.
What's Been Good:
Lawrence has been selected to Pro Bowls in two of the past three seasons and recorded double-digit sacks in 2017 and 2018. He regularly demands double-teams and, at 27 years old, the case can be made that he not only is the best player on the Cowboys' defense but also the one with the highest upside. Lawrence played all 16 games last season, and Dallas was 3-0 in games when he recorded at least two quarterback hits.
What's Been Bad:
Unfortunately, he was not selected to a Pro Bowl last season and recorded only five sacks. It doesn't help that his disappointing year came immediately after signing a 5-year deal with the Cowboys with $65 million of guaranteed money. Lawrence's lack of production was baffling considering Robert Quinn joined the team opposite him on the defensive line and re-emerged as an elite pass rusher. Quinn left for the Chicago Bears in free agency, so Lawrence will need a big season if opposing quarterbacks are to fear the Cowboys' defensive line.
Ultimately, Lawrence is a cornerstone (if not the cornerstone) of the Cowboys' defense. He'll be working with a new defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan and a new defensive line coach in Jim Tomsula, both veterans coaches in the NFL, and there are whispers of a switch to a 3-4 defense. He'll also be playing alongside two veteran defensive tackles in Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe. The Cowboys have also signed Aldon Smith and hope to get Randy Gregory reinstated as well, which could give some help on the other side. But Lawrence has the kind of talent that will lead to double teams, but he is paid like a player who will be expected to produce despite them.