Heading into this season, Lawrence had exactly nine sacks to his credit, which excludes the big play against the Lions in the playoffs a few years ago.
Heading into Week 5 of this season, he has 7.5 sacks, which leads the league as we cross the one-quarter mark.
This is one heck of a jump towards stardom for this 6’3” and now-265-pound pass rushing machine that’s suddenly working on overdrive.
So, here’s the multi-million dollar question: Can the Dallas Cowboys afford to keep Lawrence for 2018 and beyond?
As of right now, Calais Campbell of the Jacksonville Jaguars sits in second place in the NFL in sacks with 5.5. Campbell also provides a good point of reference as he also received the biggest free-agent contract for a defensive lineman last March. According to Spotrac, no other player last offseason received a contract that averages more than $15 million per year.
Using the Campbell contract as a barometer, the Dallas Cowboys should expect to pony up more than $60 million over at least four years to keep Lawrence long-term – chances are great that the market will surpass that threshold, which creates a real dilemma for owner and general manager Jerry Jones.
The names Jason Hatcher and DeMarco Murray have one thing in common. These are players that were drafted by the Cowboys and then found themselves playing elsewhere following one really good year statistically.
Hatcher led the team in sacks back in 2013 with a total of 11.0 and Murray led the league in rushing the following year. These names are now memories in the annals of Cowboys history, and it would not surprise anybody if Lawrence ended up playing elsewhere next season simply because of financial considerations.
No, the Cowboys haven’t gotten cheap on their players, but they do spend dollars much more wisely and with less recklessness than they did for better than a decade following the advent of free agency and the salary cap in 1993. No longer does Jones jump to set the market in early March to start fortifying an average roster with overpriced talent that’s available for a reason.
But is there a difference when it comes to Lawrence?
There’s a chance there is.