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Breaking Out: Will DeMarcus Lawrence Become Too Expensive for Cowboys?

Jess Haynie

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With 3.5 sacks in just his first two games of 2017, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is on his way to a breakout season. With his rookie contract expiring this year, what does this mean for his financial future and his potential to remain with the Dallas Cowboys?

Big things have always been expected for Lawrence, who Dallas who with the 34th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Dallas surrendered their third-round pick that year to Washington to move up 13 spots and draft DeMarcus. While he didn't have to be Reggie White or even DeMarcus Ware to live up that investment, the Cowboys certainly expected him to become a key part of their defense.

DeMarcus Lawrence

DE DeMarcus Lawrence

It's been a rough three years to start Lawrence's career. A foot injury in the 2014 training camp took half of his rookie season and kept him as a limited rotation player once he returned. He did make a grand showing the playoffs that year, though, with the memorable sack and fumble plays against the Lions that helped seal victory.

In 2015 Lawrence again had a slow start but then came on in the second half of the season, getting seven sacks in the final eight games. That flourish had everyone excited for the breakout season to come in 2016, but a four-game suspension for PED use and ongoing back problems held Lawrence to just nine games played, only three as a starter, and zero sacks.

Going into 2017 unfettered by any off-field drama and as healthy as he's been, Lawrence seems ready to finally live up to the hype. The results are obvious over two weeks; he's already more than halfway to matching last year's team-high of six sacks posted by Benson Mayowa.

Even if his production drops to more normal levels, he still looks ready to have double-digit sacks on the year. Lawrence would be the first Cowboy to accomplish that since Jason Hatcher (11 sacks) in 2013. In case you're wondering, DeMarcus Ware has the all-time high with 20 sacks in 2008.

5 Takeaways From Cowboys Win VS Giants

DE DeMarcus Lawrence takes down Giants QB Eli Manning (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

If this proves to be a breakout season for DeMarcus Lawrence then it shouldn't be all that surprising. He has the magic elixir that is an expiring contract, which consistently seems to push athletes to new heights regardless of the sport they play.

As a second-round pick, DeMarcus is not subject to the fifth-year team option that can be used on players taken in the first round. Unless the Cowboys work out a contract extension beforehand, Lawrence will be an unrestricted free agent when the 2018 market opens.

A 26-year-old pass rusher (Lawrence turns 26 in April) is about as attractive as it gets in NFL free agency. Only a franchise quarterback is clearly more desirable. If the DeMarcus Lawrence we're seeing right now is the same guy come December and January, he stands to get about as lucrative a contract as a defensive player can get.

Last year, 27-year-old Chandler Jones signed a five-year, $83 million deal to stay with the Arizona Cardinals. Jason Pierre-Paul, despite his nubs, got $62 million over four years from the Giants. Melvin Ingram got the same contract from the Chargers.

Lawrence will be a year or two younger than these guys and has all ten fingers. He should be able to command at least what Chandler Jones did. He won't make Von Miller money (six years, $115 million), but he could easily land somewhere in the middle.

DeMarcus Lawrence

DE DeMarcus Lawrence (James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys)

Would the Cowboys, who have moved to a much more fiscally conservative business model over the last few years, be willing to pay market value for DeMarcus Lawrence? Even if they can afford it against the salary cap, would other assets at defensive end give them motivation to allow Lawrence to walk?

Dallas just spent a first-round pick on Taco Charlton. They would still have two more years on Charles Tapper's contract, who may have his own breakout before 2017 is over. There's also still David Irving to consider, who will be a Restricted Free Agent next season and give Dallas more leverage to retain him.

As we've already outlined, Lawrence could be one of the most attractive free agent pass rushers to hit free agency in a while. That attraction applies just as much to the Cowboys, though, as anyone. Give his young age, they may be more willing to pay top dollar than they have recently with other veterans who were closer to their 30s.

These are obviously questions to be answered down the road, but every step along that road can change the equation. At the very least, a breakout season for DeMarcus Lawrence is a tremendous boon for the 2017 Dallas Cowboys and their quest to get past the second round of the playoffs. If he becomes too expensive for the Cowboys to keep, Lawrence must have had a pretty fantastic season. We can only hope.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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6 Comments
  • John Williams

    This is absolutely going to be the most difficult decision for the Dallas front office in the offseason.

    They seem to be ok with paying certain home grown players while allowing others to leave. I wonder if Lawrence’s desire to stay in Dallas will help them work something out that allows him to get a good-sized guarantee up front while allowing them long-term flexibility if his play falls off.

    • Jess Haynie

      It’s a big dilemma, for sure. They got burned badly not long ago with Anthony Spencer’s contract year. I wonder if that will stick in their minds when dealing with Lawrence.

      • John Williams

        Absolutely true. I also wonder if they’ll see it differently, because their isn’t a DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff on the line helping him.

        Sure Maliek Collins is super disruptive, but it’s not like they have another player on the opposite side garnering much attention.

        I could see the franchise tag in Lawrence’s future.

  • Larry Clutter

    Amazing how ALL players seem to be their best in a contract season. They play better, they play hurt, they dont get suspended for drug use (DeMarcus Lawrence), and they are not the same person that was being overpaid all the years before. Case in point. DeMarco Murray. Nuff said!

    • Jess Haynie

      It’s a universal truth and it goes well beyond the NFL. We’d like to think “the love of the game” is all a guy needs, but that’s just not realistic.

  • frank orick

    well if you have been a Cowboys fan as long as I have then you know that Jerry Jones has been salivating for a war Daddy type rusher,and he has taken some bold chances in free agency not to mention some heart breakerd in the draft. I do believe he will pay almost anything for that missing piece we havnt had since Demarcus Ware.A championship caliber sack master that can help the Cowboys make a deep playoff run,”Tank” Lawrence is on Pace to crush the season record (20 plus),and be the first Cowboy since Ware to have over 15 sacks in a single season,with 6.5 through 3games,it seems all he needs to do is stay healthy,With teamates coming off suspensions last week (demontre moore)and more help coming in these next few weeks and it will be hard to double team every one.I see were haters or anyone for that matter can say he has only went up against su par right tackles and he hasnt went up against any one of playoff Calibre or faced constant double teams,but there is no doubting he is red hot,and in a contract year none the less with alot too prove…

Dallas Cowboys

Will Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods Return This Week?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Have Their Version of Tryann Mathieu in Xavier Woods?

The Dallas Cowboys have been without one of their defensive starters for the first two weeks of 2018; safety Xavier Woods. A preseason hamstring injury has kept him in street clothes so far, but Woods could make his season debut this week against the Seattle Seahawks.

The positive update on Woods' status was provided by Owner Jerry Jones in his regular radio appearance this morning.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Jerry Jones on @1053thefan said it appears Randy Gregory (concussion) will be available to play Sunday at Seattle. Jones also thinks Xavier Woods (hamstring) has a chance to play this week after missing the first two games

Gregory has already played this year, suffering his concussion and leaving the season opener against the Carolina Panthers. Even in his absence last week, the Cowboys got six sacks on Eli Manning in their victory over the Giants.

That's not to say getting Randy back isn't noteworthy, but the real news here is the potential for Xavier Woods to take his place as the team's starting free safety.

While Woods has been out, Jeff Heath has been the free safety while Kavon Frazier has started at strong. The plan going into 2018 was for Heath to play strong safety, putting him closer to the line of scrimmage where his skills are best suited.

Xavier was one of the team's most exciting rookies last year, flashing the potential to be a game-changing presence.

Woods' upside is one of the reasons some fans haven't been as desperate about the Earl Thomas situation. While Thomas would be an upgrade in almost any defense, including the Cowboys, the chance to see what Xavier has mitigated disappointment over not acquiring the All-Pro safety.

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods

If Woods can provide what the team hopes for at free safety, it has a positive ripple effect for the roster. Not only do you upgrade at FS, but Heath moving to his ideal role at SS is another improvement.

It also moves Frazier, who's been solid in his playing time, into a valuable bench role. It gives Dallas depth at safety which, up til now, they've lacked in Xavier's absence.

The loser in this deal would likely be either veteran backup Ibraheim Campbell, who Dallas signed two weeks ago to deal with their depth issues, or undrafted rookie Tyree Robinson. Robinson has been with the team since they signed him immediately after the 2018 NFL Draft.

With talk that the Cowboys are looking to bring back WR Brice Butler, a roster spot will be needed. Xavier Woods' return could allow for that spot to come from safety rather than receiver, where Dallas is hesitant to part with any of its current players.

In the end, all we have right now is a "maybe" about Woods' status. But with Dallas' defense already performing well this year, the thought of getting even better is enticing. With the tough road environment of Seattle and Russell Wilson coming up this Sunday, getting Xavier back could be timely.



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Game Notes

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Giants

Brian Martin

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Giants

I don't know about you, but I feel a lot better this week about the Dallas Cowboys after they thoroughly controled the game against the New York Giants last Sunday night. It amazes me how much better they played in the second week of the 2018 season as opposed to what they put on the field Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers.

The Dallas Cowboys performed better in all three phases of the game. The defense was simply outstanding, the offense looked much improved, and the fact that there weren't any breakdowns on special teams is an added plus. Overall, it's hard to be too disappointed with the way the overall team performed Sunday.

With all of that in mind, I want to share with you what I believe is The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the Dallas Cowboys from the primetime matchup with the division rival New York Giants. I know you may disagree with what I decided to go with in each category, but that's part of the fun of it.

The Good

Taco Charlton

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

If you watched the Dallas Cowboys against the New York Giants Sunday night then you pretty much know what the good was. How could I not go with the Cowboys defense? They were simply phenomenal against the Giants and are starting to become the identity of this year's team.

The Cowboys pass rush continuously put pressure on Quarterback Eli Manning and ended the game with six QB sacks. Nearly every defensive lineman got in on the action, which is hopefully a sign of things to come. The secondary was also really impressive. They played man-to-man coverage nearly the entire game and shut down the Giants aerial attack, including Odell Beckham Jr.

I was also really pleased to see the Cowboys linebackers playing much better. You may not have noticed, but the coaching staff is going with a rotation of sorts with the LBs, and it really looked as if it's helping keep them fresh. This could pay huge dividends moving forward, especially with Sean Lee's injury concerns.

The Bad

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

I debated several different things to put in this section, but ultimately I decided the bad for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night was Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game. Yes, it was better than what we saw from them in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done from both Prescott and his receivers.

Unfortunately, Prescott only completed 16 of 25 passes for 160 yards and one touchdown against the Giants. Those are nearly identical numbers to what he put up against the Panthers, the only difference is he was much more successful on the ground, rushing for 45 yards on seven carries. If you take away his long TD completion to Wide Receiver Tavon Austin, those numbers are even more depressing.

The passing game and Dak Prescott needs to improve dramatically. The Cowboys simply aren't going to be able to continue to win games like this. The offense should've been able to put up a lot more points on the Giants Sunday night. Hopefully, things will continue to get better because if not, the Cowboys are in trouble.

The Ugly

There was a number of different directions I could've gone here, but for me the ugly for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night against the Giants was the penalties. Penalties became a problem for the Cowboys in Week 1 against the Panthers and once again reared their ugly head against the Giants. Unfortunately, this has continuously been a problem under the tutelage of Head Coach Jason Garrett.

The Dallas Cowboys were lucky that the untimely penalties didn't have much impact on the outcome of the game. If they would have been playing a better team than the Giants, they probably wouldn't have overcome the long down and distances. I want to believe this can be cleaned up, but Jason Garrett's going to have to start holding his players accountable, which at this point seems a little unlikely.

The Cowboys players are going to take it upon themselves to cut down the penalties. Most of the time it's just mental mistakes, so there is reason to believe they can accomplish this task. But, they are really going to have to buckle down and focus on remaining consistent down after down.

What is your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Giants?



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Game Notes

Monday Morning Hangover: Cowboys Bounce Back Against Giants

Brian Martin

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Monday Morning Hangover: Cowboys Bounce Back Against Giants

Unlike last week, today's Monday morning hangover isn't nearly as bad. Thankfully, the Dallas Cowboys had a bounce back game against the New York Giants Sunday night, meaning you were probably drinking in celebration instead of drowning your sorrows. Hopefully, this continues.

Today, I want to do a little recap over what took place last night for the Dallas Cowboys and share with you some of the good and not so good I observed. Luckily, there was much more good for the Cowboys compared to what they put on the field Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers.

First off, how impressive was the Cowboys defensive play against the Giants? The pass rush consistently put pressure on Eli Manning and finished the night with six quarterback sacks. Nearly all of the defensive line got in on the action. I think we can credit Passing Game Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard for the aggressive game plan.

The pass rush wasn't all that was dominant against the Giants for the Cowboys defense. Dallas' secondary pretty much shut down Odell Beckham Jr. and the rest of the Giants aerial attack. They played man-to-man coverage nearly the entire night and it paid off. Again, I think we can give credit to Kris Richard. He's changed how these defensive backs are being utilized.

Jeff Heath, Saquon Barkley

Dallas Cowboys S Jeff Heath (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

The one negative I took away from the Cowboys defensive performance was the missed tackles once again. There were several Cowboys defenders who failed to take down Giants Running Back Saquon Barkley on first contact. Barkley unfortunately was able to pick up several yards after contact because of this. Tackling was a problem against the Panthers as well and it needs to be cleaned up in a hurry.

Offensively, the Dallas Cowboys looked like an entirely different unit than what took the field in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers. Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan was much more aggressive with his playcalling, evidenced by the long touchdown pass to Tavon Austin on the first offensive series.

Unlike against the Panthers, Linehan put Dak Prescott in the best position to succeed. He didn't have No. 4 sit in the pocket, instead he put him on the move and allowed him to use his mobility to put pressure on the Giants defense. I believe this is where Prescott is at his best and should continued to be utilized in this manner.

Ezekiel Elliott didn't have the biggest rushing totals, but we all know the Giants defense was trying to take him out of the game. He finished the night with 78 rushing yards on 17 carries, but he did manage to pretty much put the game away with a rushing TD. Personally, I would love to see Zeke more involved in the passing game, especially down the field instead of around on a scrimmage.

All in all, the Dallas Cowboys did what they needed to do in order to secure the victory. They still have several things they need to clean up and improve upon, but what team doesn't at this point in the season. Now, they need to carry over this momentum into Week 3 on the road against the Seattle Seahawks.

What do you think about the Dallas Cowboys performance against the Giants?



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