FRISCO, Texas – Ditch the franchise tag: DeMarcus Lawrence will be a Dallas Cowboy for many years to come.
Now that the Pro Bowl pass rusher has agreed to a monster five-year contract worth more than $100 million, let's take a closer look at what the deal means for the Cowboys as they move through the rest of the offseason:
1. It's a great deal for Lawrence -- and for the team that drafted him five years ago.
Lawrence has overcome injuries, including two consecutive back surgeries after the 2015 and 2016 seasons, to emerge as a premier player at a premium position. He played a full Pro Bowl season in 2017, signed the franchise tag without animus, then went out and proved himself again in 2018.
For the Cowboys, it's a great message to the locker room that one of its best leaders is being rewarded.
This is always how they prefer to do business: draft, develop and re-sign their own stars. In 2014 they traded up 13 spots in the second round to grab Lawrence with hopes that he would eventually lead the front seven the way another DeMarcus (Ware) did the previous decade. It has worked out that way.
And for Lawrence, who originally was franchised again in March, his reported $21 million per-year salary is above the $20 million he would have gotten on the tag this year. He's now compensated right in line with the best rushers in the league, and he's reportedly getting a little over $31 million in the first year of the contract.
2. The Cowboys have been in this situation before -- sort of.
In 2015 they barely beat the mid-July deadline to sign franchised receiver Dez Bryant just in time for training camp. This time, there was an extra layer of complexity.
**As David Helman pointed out**, Lawrence played through a torn labrum last season and has yet to have surgery that likely requires a minimum recovery time of three months.
Unless he continued to play without the shoulder fixed, the chances Lawrence would've been ready for Week 1 of the regular season were small, if not zero, had negotiations dragged into the summer. With an agreement now reached, one could speculate that surgery might take place in the near future.
3. The pass rush, on paper, looks as promising as any year under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
Lawrence is so valuable at left defensive end because he's lethal rushing off the edge and equally underrated as a run stopper. Now add newcomer Robert Quinn on the other side -- a proven veteran still in his prime -- and the Cowboys, at worst, should be as productive pressuring quarterbacks as last year. A step forward from Taco Charlton and Dorance Armstrong would also help.
The question mark is Randy Gregory, suspended again by the NFL. Gregory might have been the Week 1 starter at right end after tallying six sacks a year ago. Though fully aware of Gregory's "indefinite" suspension status, Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones said during NFL combine week that it's "not impossible" to envision Gregory getting reinstated this year. That would be a big boost. But the Cowboys have to operate under the assumption he won't be available -- and that's the primary reason Quinn arrived in a trade with the Dolphins.
4. The Cowboys might not be done addressing the D-Line.
Defensive tackle depth remains a potential target in a fairly deep draft. The Cowboys have added rotation veterans Kerry Hyder and Christian Covington, but if a disruptive tackle were available on Day 2 of the draft -- a pocket-pushing presence like David Irving once provided sporadically in Dallas -- that might just complete this line's makeover.
5. Lawrence is the first contract domino to fall, but surely not the last.
So, who's next? The Cowboys have had early discussions this offseason with representatives of their other Pro Bowlers who are eligible for new deals: Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott and Byron Jones. Undoubtedly they'd like to keep all of them long-term.
Lawrence was the most important domino because of the franchise deadline. Now the Cowboys can turn their attention to the others. The timing and the order remain to be seen, but one thing is clear: The Cowboys very rarely let their best get away.