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DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys

Mauricio Rodriguez

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DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys
Matthew Emmons / USA TODAY Sports

For Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, it was now or never. With an expiring rookie contract, it was time for him to make a name for himself. Between injuries and a suspension, Lawrence wasn't close to being a great player before 2017. He accounted for eight sacks in 2015 and only one in 2016.

However, last season he was finally able to get double-digit numbers by sacking opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times. Lawrence also had 36 tackles and four forced fumbles. Not only was he a very good pass rusher, but he also became a great run defender.

Simply put, DeMarcus "Tank" Lawrence went from an average player to one of the NFL's best defensive ends in 2017.

It seems like finally, after years of waiting, the Dallas Cowboys have found their "War Daddy." But, as is always the case for the Cowboys, there's a problem. DeMarcus Lawrence needs to be paid in order for him to stay. With number 90 ready to hit free agency, the Cowboys' front office has a choice to make.

They can give him the big multi-year contract he wants, they can tag him, or the Cowboys can watch him walk out the front door and thrive somewhere else in the league.

DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence (Scott Cunningham / Getty Images)

There's a problem with giving him a big-time contract though. Lawrence had a great 2017 season, but before that, he hadn't proved anything. Tank has provided one quality season for the Dallas Cowboys. Are they willing to pay him a lot of money and take the risk of seeing him play like in 2015 or 2016?

It wouldn't be the first time that an NFL player has had a great "contract year" season just to become an average football player. The Cowboys should look at the possibility of keeping Lawrence for at least one more year by giving him a franchise tag.

But First of All, What is a Franchise Tag?

The offseason is a time in which we sort of understand certain concepts but don't truly understand them completely. Simply put, every year each NFL team has the right to hand out a franchise tag to one of its players. Tagging a player means giving him a one-year deal with a high payment, basically forcing the player to stay with the team for one more season.

In some cases, the player might even end up on another team, despite being tagged, but that would depend on the type of franchise tag he receives.

There are three types of franchise tags:

  • Exclusive Franchise Tag: With this tag, the player gets paid the average of the top five salaries for the player's position (in this case, defensive end) for the current year. With this tag, no other team can negotiate with the player (hence the term exclusive). However, only guys like Kirk Cousins or Von Miller get exclusive tags, so it probably won't be the case for Lawrence.
  • Non-exclusive Franchise Tag: Out of every tag, this is the most used. With this tag, the player receives the average of the top five salaries at his position over the last five years. Other teams can actually negotiate with the player though. If offered a deal by another team, the current team has the right to match the offer. If they decline to do so, they get two first-round picks in compensation.
  • Transition Franchise Tag: This isn't as compromising as the other tags are, since the team doesn't even receive compensation if the player takes a deal with another team. The player is paid the average of the ten best salaries at his position. The current team has the opportunity to match any offers made to the player.

In DeMarcus Lawrence's case, the "non-exclusive" tag would make the most sense, but even if the Cowboys decide to tag Lawrence, there's still a big problem... cap space.

Per Over The Cap, Dallas is expected to have a cap number of around $18M. The projected tag for a DE in 2018 is over $17M. The Cowboys have to make some moves if they want to keep Tank on the roster.

Whether it's releasing some players or restructuring a ton of contracts, something will need to get done in Dallas. Lawrence is not the only player the Cowboys should be concerned about re-signing, so they'll definitely need the cap space.

We may see some surprising cap casualties if the Cowboys really want Lawrence. I wouldn't even be surprised if this team says goodbye to Dez Bryant, for example.

I don't see how this team could let DeMarcus Lawrence walk in free agency. I don't think they should. Let's hope Tank is wearing a star in 2018.

Tell me what you think about "DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @PepoR99.

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2 Comments
  • tom

    they franchise DLaw and sign Martin to make space

  • wconsult

    Trade Dez, he’s been basically worthless since he signed his big contract.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Draws Comparison to Dallas Legend

Jess Haynie

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Tavon Austin

It will be a few weeks before new Cowboys receiver Tavon Austin can make a big impression on Dallas fans. But apparently he's already done that with team owner Jerry Jones, who went so far as to compare Austin to the biggest legend in Cowboys WR history.

According to Rob Phillips of DallasCowboys.com, Jones said the following about Tavon after a recent practice:

Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Draws Comparison to Dallas Legend

Considering that Michael Irving's energy and leadership were an integral part of the 1990s Super Bowl teams, that's high praise. And given recent developments on the Cowboys offense, that sort of leadership is needed.

Say what you want about their declining performance, but Jason Witten and Dez Bryant were huge voices in the locker room. Their departures left a void of veteran leadership that, hopefully, Tavon Austin is helping to fill.

Personality is great, but a player also has to stand out on the field. Tavon's never been to a Pro Bowl and was almost a non-factor on the Rams last season. He won't keep his teammates' attention long if he's not backing it up with his play.

Michael Irvin's nickname was "The Playmaker." His performance justified his loud voice in the locker room.

Nobody expects Tavon Austin to be the Cowboys leading receiver in 2018, or even in the top three, but he will need to maximize his opportunities on offense and on special teams. He may not get close to the 907 combined yards and nine touchdowns he had as a Ram in 2015, but he still needs to be consistent and do the most with what he's given.

No, Austin's name won't ever be in the Ring of Honor with Michael Irvin's. But playing in his sixth season, Tavon has more experience than a lot of players on this young Cowboys roster. He's seen the highs of being an eight overall draft pick and the lows of being traded for peanuts for by his former team.

Hopefully, all of that has made him a voice of wisdom and encouragement for his new teammates. If so, Tavon Austin is an asset to this Dallas offense.



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Film Review: Connor Williams Overall Impressive In Preseason Debut

Kevin Brady

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Film Review: Connor Williams Overall Impressive In Preseason Debut

The collapse of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys can be, in large part, attributed to the collapse of their offensive line. When left tackle Tyron Smith was forced to miss time with various injuries, neither Chaz Green nor Byron Bell could get the job done in his place. Not only were these two replacements unsatisfactory, however, they were disastrous.

From the beginning of the 2017 season the Cowboys had a problem at left guard as well. With Ronald Leary departing for Denver and La'el Collins replacing Doug Free at right tackle, the left guard spot was left to an open competition between Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green. Quite frankly, neither was impressive.

As a result Dak Prescott's sophomore season was nowhere near as fun or remarkable as his rookie season, and the Cowboys faltered down the stretch as a team. Trying to rectify these issues, Dallas drafted Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams in the second round of last year's draft.

Though it could be argued that, on paper, the Cowboys had more pressing needs than their All-Pro filled offensive line, adding a player like Connor Williams was exactly what this team needed to do if it wanted to emulate its 2016 success.

So, through one preseason game, how does the rookie look? Let's take to the film to decide just how good (or bad) Connor Williams was in his debut.

dalvssf2018 connor williams

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Let's begin with the bad. Really the only completely poor rep of the night for Connor Williams came on the first drive of the game. Williams is working against former first round pick DeForest Buckner here. Buckner, lined up as the 3 technique over Williams' outside shoulder, knows he is in a one-on-one situation with the rookie.

Buckner immediately swipes Williams' hands down, quickly flipping his hips and getting upfield. Besides not getting a strong enough punch, Williams' biggest mistake is that he stops his feet on contact. This allows Buckner to get him off balance, forcing Williams to bend at the waist and look lost.

Buckner then blows by him for the easy quarterback hit.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Later on the same drive we see Williams struggle to execute a reach block. Once again Williams is faced with a 3-technique, this time defensive tackle Sheldon Day. Day gets a great get-off, beating Williams initially with his first step. Day then does a great job of stoning Williams' playside shoulder and redirecting the running back.

This is another example of Connor Williams needing to increase his play strength and speed a bit. Multiple Cowboys reporters at training camp have mentioned these issues with Williams' game, and they flashed on tape during this rep.

Thankfully for both Connor Williams and the Cowboys, things only went uphill from here.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On Dak Prescott's touchdown pass to Michael Gallup we see Connor Williams correct everything he had wrong earlier.

Williams comes out of his stance square, delivers a solid punch, and stones the defensive lineman at the line of scrimmage. Williams stays strong with his hands even as the defender attempts to swipe them down as Buckner successfully did earlier.

He allows for no interior pass rush and keeps Prescott's vision clear down the field.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Earlier on the same drive we see Connor Williams work well off a double team and on to the second level. Williams delivers a solid punch to the 1-technique on the inside of him, allowing Travis Frederick plenty of time to overtake the man and drive him back.

What's most impressive, though, is how Williams keeps his shoulders square and his eyes on the second level the entire time. He never buries his head or over-commits to the down lineman, allowing himself to be an athlete and help spring Rod Smith for a nice gain.

Despite some legit reasons for concern about Williams' game, I do believe he will be fine moving forward. Connor Williams is an excellent plug and play left guard who provides some tackle depth as well, and is a vital addition to the Cowboys 2018 offense. His debut performance gives all of us even more reasons to be excited about this offensive line.



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Dallas Cowboys

Possible Cowboys Roster Cuts Who Could Have Trade Value

Brian Martin

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Possible Cowboys Roster Cuts Who Could Have Trade Value

I know it's a little early in the process to start thinking about roster cuts with a few weeks of preseason still remaining, but I've been doing just that. You see, the Dallas Cowboys have very few available spots up for grabs, which means they will have to let go of some talented players.

Once cut, players are subject to the waiver wire and have no control over which team puts in a claim to acquire their service. It's just how things work in the NFL. But, if a team truly values someone at risk of being cut, they could try to work out a trade before the player hits the waiver wire. We have seen the Dallas Cowboys do this in the past.

With so much talent on the roster, the Cowboys could end up shopping some of their players before final cuts are made. There is no way of knowing if anybody would be interested in entering trade discussions for any of the Cowboys potential roster cuts, but I do believe they have a few players who have some trade value.

WR Terrance Williams 

Terrance Williams

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams

With the way some of the Dallas Cowboys younger wide receivers are performing in training camp practices and in preseason, Terrance Williams could find himself on the outside looking in when roster cuts are made. Yes, the Cowboys would have to be willing to swallow the dead money they'd have to take on by releasing him, but it could be worth it if it means keeping someone with more upside.

Williams could be viewed as a progress stopper with the Cowboys right now, which could make him expendable. He may not have value in Dallas any longer, but there are other teams around the NFL who could use his services. It probably wouldn't take more than a 2019 late round draft pick to acquire him if indeed the Cowboys are planning to move on.

TE Rico Gathers 

Rico Gathers

Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

There is an unwarranted fascination surrounding Dallas Cowboys Tight End Rico Gathers, despite very little production to justify it. I'll admit, I was excited about Gathers' development and what he could possibly turn into, but I think my excitement has dwindled. He simply hasn't emerged as of yet and I just don't think the Cowboys coaching staff has much faith in him doing so.

We all know Gathers could be a mismatch in the passing game, but the Cowboys ask a lot more from their TEs in their offensive scheme. Unfortunately, Gathers just hasn't been able to pick up the mental side of the game or develop as a blocker since coming to Dallas. I don't really think he's shown enough in the passing game to warrant a roster spot either, which means his fate could be sealed. But, some other team could be interested in trading for him instead of trying to pick him up off of waivers.

DE Kony Ealy

Kony Ealy

Dallas Cowboys DE Kony Ealy

At the time, I thought the Dallas Cowboys signing Defensive End Kony Ealy in the offseason was a good move. He provided some much-needed depth to the DE position, but that was before and this is now. Unfortunately for Ealy, he could be buried on the depth chart behind some young up-and-coming pass rushers with more upside.

This year's fourth-round draft pick Dorance Armstrong hass been a pleasant surprise so far and has probably secured a roster spot. Taco Charlton, the Cowboys first-round draft pick last year, looks like an entirely different player and isn't going anywhere. Then, you add in the return of Randy Gregory and that just doesn't leave much room for Ealy. But, the veteran could have other suitors around the league, prompting the Cowboys to trade him.

DE Charles Tapper

Charles Tapper

Dallas Cowboys DE Charles Tapper (Paul Spinelli via AP)

It's really unfortunate Charles Tapper hasn't really been healthy since joining the Dallas Cowboys. I think he is talented with starting potential, but injuries have prevented him from becoming the player I think he could be. But, just like Kony Ealy, Tapper is stuck in a numbers crunch and will likely be a roster cut when all is said and done.

I'm actually going to be a little disappointed to see Tapper go. I've been a fan of his, but there's comes a time when you have to cut ties, and his time looks as if it's up. He is as physically gifted as just about any defensive end in the NFL, which could mean another team would like to take a chance on him and work out a trade with the Cowboys.

Do you think any of these potential Dallas Cowboys roster cuts get traded?



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