If quarterback is the most important position in football, then the guys who hunt them down might be second. As such, the Dallas Cowboys face a major offseason decision in 2019 when it comes to the free agency of Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence.
This will be Lawrence’s second year as an unrestricted free agent, with Dallas retaining him last season using the franchise tag. Even though he accepted it in 2018, DeMarcus swore all the way back in that summer that he wouldn’t play for the Cowboys in 2019 if franchised again.
Despite his sack numbers dropping a bit last season, “Tank” remains one of the top defensive ends in the NFL. He is a total package of pass-rushing and run stopping, and he’s now given Dallas two-straight Pro Bowl seasons.
If the Cowboys have any plans to contend for a championship next season then they can’t risk losing a player like Lawrence. We’ve seen what this defense looks like without a premiere pass rusher and it isn’t pretty.
Of course, Dallas could try to replace DeMarcus with a different free agent signing. If Jadeveon Clowney or Frank Clark avoid being tagged by their own teams, perhaps the Cowboys can lure one of them over. But don’t expect any big difference in compensation between these three players.
Whether it’s Lawrence or one of the other premiere pass rushers in free agency, you can expect the Cowboys to make one of them their top offseason priority. The greater mystery is if Dallas will make any other moves to upgrade the DE position, or stick with what they’ve got.
Dallas finally enjoyed some real production out of Randy Gregory in 2018, whose personal issues nearly derailed the talented pass rusher’s career. Gregory posted six sacks last season and was starting to look like the Robin to Lawrence’s Batman.
Also in the mix is 2017 first-round pick Taco Charlton, who took a backwards step last year and seemed to be in the coaches’ doghouse by season’s end. Motivation and attitude seem to be an issue for him, and he’ll need to step it up this summer if he doesn’t want to wind up at the back of the depth chart again.
One of last year’s fourth-round picks Dorance Armstrong also returns. He will hopefully be ready to take on a larger role in his second season and provide another pass rushing threat, plus insurance in case Gregory suffers any return of past problems.
If Dallas doesn’t make Tyrone Crawford a salary cap casualty, or chooses to re-sign David Irving, those are two other guys who can play some defensive end for you.
Despite these options, the Cowboys could still look at adding another mid-grade free agent for depth and insurance. They could hope for a bargain on veterans like Ezekiel Ansah, Vinny Curry, or Chris Long. They might hope that Rod Marinelli could work his magic on first-round flop Dante Fowler.
Another guy that Dallas might look at is Benson Mayowa, who was with them from 2016-2017 and is a solid player. He spent the last season in Arizona on a one-year deal and is still just 27 years old.
Don’t expect much from the draft, barring a major steal presenting itself. The Cowboys have bigger needs with their limited number of 2019 picks, and they also still need to see how recent selections like Charlton and Armstrong play out.
This offseason is all about DeMarcus Lawrence, or at least one of the other marquee free agents at defensive end. Some supplemental moves are possible, but arguably the biggest move Dallas makes the next few months is either retaining or replacing their top pass rusher.