There was a moment earlier in the offseason when it appeared that the Dallas Cowboys and DeMarcus Lawrence might have reached an impasse in their relationship. But after a renegotiated contract, both parties now head into 2022 with hope that the defensive end will be back to Pro Bowl form.
Last season was one to forget for Lawrence. He broke his foot during practice for Dallas' Week Two game and was out for the next 10 games.
Tank returned in December and helped his team go 5-1 over the last six games of the regular season. Lawrence contributed three sacks, a force fumble, and an interception returned for a touchdown during that stretch.
Back in March, Dallas approached DeMarcus about taking a pay cut to help their salary cap. Lawrence later shared that the initial offer was “disrespectful” and had him even requesting to be released by the team.
The Cowboys and Tank eventually agreed to a new three-year, $40 million deal that would reduce his salary cap number by $13 million in 2022. It brought down Lawrence's annual compensation but gave him 75% guaranteed money at $30 million. Essentially, DeMarcus traded total value of the contract for increased job security.
With Lawrence turning 30 last April that's no small win at this point in his career. For the Cowboys, it means putting significant faith in a defensive end who hasn't produced double-digit sacks since 2018.
You've seen it said on this site and many other places throughout Cowboys Nation; there's more to being a DE than just sacks. While he hasn't been a premiere sack artist since his Pro Bowl seasons in 2017-2018, DeMarcus has been one of the NFL's elite run defenders and still contributes consistently as a pass rusher with QB pressures and hits.
That said, it's the pass rushing that generally gets defensive ends the big contracts. That's what got Lawrence his back in 2019 after two-straight years on the franchise tag. And after the sack numbers dropped, that's what had Dallas looking to rethink his compensation.
With LB Micah Parsons now in the mix the Cowboys probably aren't expecting DeMarcus to lead them in sacks in 2022 or beyond. But now that Randy Gregory's in Denver and the next-best guy is Dorance Armstrong, Lawrence needs to at least be a consistent threat to help provide balance on the defensive line.
What would that look like by the end of the season? We'd all love to see double-digits again from Tank, but even just an uptick to something around eight sacks would be a nice contribution.
Again, Lawrence does plenty of other good things to justify his existence. The Cowboys confirmed that by working out this new deal that will almost assuredly keep DeMarcus with the team for the next two years and perhaps through 2024.
But hopefully, with full health and Parsons now the focal point of the defense, DeMarcus Lawrence can have one of his best seasons in 2022. Dallas certainly thinks he's capable based on the contract decision and another impact player is sorely needed for the Cowboys to achieve their goals.