Dallas Cowboys: Is DeMarcus Lawrence destined for the franchise tag?

DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Halfway through the final year of his rookie deal, is Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence destined to receive the franchise tag in 2018?

Some NFL moves are no-brainers. The Dallas Cowboys re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence at season’s end is such a move.

The 25-year old has recorded a career-high 11.5 sacks through 11 games so far this season. With Lawrence scheduled to be a free agent next year, securing the dominate pass rusher has to be a top priority for America’s Team.

But is signing Lawrence to a long-term deal even on the table? Unless the former second rounder is willing to ink a extremely team-friendly, incentive-laced contract, it appears Tank may be destined for the franchise tag next year. Here’s why …

First, let’s remember that Lawrence doesn’t have the greatest track record in Dallas. A foot injury essentially robbed the former Boise State star of most of his rookie season. Lawrence bounced back in 2015, recording 8.0 sacks his sophomore year in Big “D”. Seven of those sacks came after Week 10.

Last season was a down year for Lawrence. Following offseason back surgery, the young defender got slapped with a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Recently, Lawrence admitted he lied about his health in 2016, and played through intense pain. He ended up recording just 11 combined tackles and a single sack in nine games.

Lawrence had a second back surgery earlier this year. Facing a pivotal season in Dallas, and with his future on the line, Tank slimmed down and got in the best shape of his life. The results are obvious, as he’s now all but assured to be re-signed this offseason.

But inking Lawrence to a long-term contract doesn’t seem ideal for the Cowboys right now, considering Tank’s history of back surgeries and drug issues. Instead, Dallas can protect themselves by using the franchise tag on Lawrence in 2018, giving the young pass rusher another season to prove that this year’s production wasn’t a fluke.

The payout for a franchise tag changes from year-to-year and is based on position. According to ESPN.com, that amount is calculated by averaging out the salaries of the five highest paid players at that particular position or 120% of your player’s previous salary, whichever amount is greater. In 2017, the franchise tag payout for a defensive end like Lawrence was $16.9 million.

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At that price, the Dallas Cowboys salary cap would likely be far better served signing Lawrence to a long-term deal that could offset some of those monies. Especially considering possible pending deals for players like All-Pro guard Zack Martin and fellow defender David Irving. But inking Lawrence to a multi-year contract would come with several risks. A one-year franchise tag would help offset those red flags.