The Dallas Cowboys have been very quiet thus far in free agency, even more quiet than expected. They've sat out the first wave of, what they perceive to be, overpaid players to allow the second and third tier guys to hopefully fall to them on a discount.
The idea is, or at least the idea they sell fans is, that they can't “over” spend on talented players like Earl Thomas because they need that extra money to take care of their own. The Cowboys strategy is to draft well, hit on their picks, and re-sign their own free agents when the time comes.
When you draft well you obtain players worthy of long term contracts. Players who are “homegrown” and committed to the franchise's direction. This all makes logical sense.
But, well, are the Cowboys going to actually take care of their own?
If you ask defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, I doubt that he'd feel very “taken care of” at the moment. Dallas franchise tagged Lawrence to avoid letting him hit the free market, giving themselves an extended period to negotiate an extension. Lawrence, who played on the tag last season, is looking for a lengthy and expensive extension with the Cowboys.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, appear to be looking to nickel and dime him any way that they can. Rather than signing him to an extension worth about $17 million a year last offseason they elected to make him “prove it” to them again. Because of injury history and some up-and-down play in the past, the tag made sense.
He proved it, though, having one of the best seasons of his career and continuing to excel as one of the top EDGE players in all of football. Now the market says he's worth much more than $17 million a season, and would get over $20 million on the open market in free agency.
He's earned his contract. He's earned that top tier money. And it's time the Cowboys actually take care of their own, rather than simply saying they will do so.
It's still early in the process, there is no doubt, but this is off to somewhat of an ugly start. If a player's Twitter likes and NFL “insider” rumors are any indication (I readily admit they might not be), Lawrence and the Cowboys are further away than fans would hope for.
We have about six months before a meaningful game is played, and a Lawrence extension still remains likely prior to week one. But despite what Cowboys' media and fans want to say and believe, sometimes the national guys do get it right. And those national guys are wondering if Lawrence and the Cowboys are in for an ugly summer, with holdouts and in-fighting rather than good-faith negotiations.
For the sake of the Dallas Cowboys, I hope this is not the case. Luckily, I do think they will get an extension done, and DeMarcus Lawrence will have a long term deal with the Cowboys before September.
But if this is botched as badly as the early signs point to it being, Dallas' whole free agency philosophy could fall on its face. Upsetting their defensive leader, and one the best players on their team, would do serious damage to the loyalty and commitment players feel with the franchise.
Because if you're a player on the team and seeing the front office have trouble “taking care of” DeMarcus Lawrence, what are you supposed to expect when your contract is up?
Jason Garrett's most heralded skill is his ability to get his players to fight for him, but the front office could sabotage that ability if these negotiations don't go well.