Earlier this week, the Dallas Cowboys locked up one the NFL’s best pass rushers by signing Demarcus Lawrence to a five-year extension worth $105 million.
Lawrence has been a terror on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line for the last five years. He’s a two-time Pro Bowl selection with 34 career sacks – 25 in the last two seasons. To go along with the sacks, Lawrence has 48 career tackles for loss. This is the kind of production NFL teams look for when trying to find an edge pass rusher in the draft or free agency.
Lawrence has accounted for roughly 33 percent of the Cowboys’ sacks over the last two years. The two players with a higher percentage of their teams’ sacks are Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams and Chandler Jones of the Arizona Cardinals.
Even though it sounds like a negative thing, this is important for Dallas’ defensive scheme. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli does not blitz often. So, pressuring the quarterback without blitzing is crucial to the success of the Cowboys defense. And Lawrence provides just that. His ability to consistently win one-on-one battles makes him worth his $105 million price tag.
At first glance, the $105 million seems like a huge number. However, it’s a strategically front-loaded contract. Lawrence earns $65 million guaranteed. But what is unique about this contract is that 47.9 percent of the deal’s initial three-year cash flow comes in the first season. This will give the Cowboys flexibility as the financial burden of this agreement lessens over time.
In fact, the Dallas Cowboys are still expected to have $80 million in cap space next offseason even after the Lawrence contract. However, the contracts of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Jaylon Smith, Byron Jones, and La’el Collins expire after this season and will cost a lot.
At just 27-years-old, Lawrence has many years of football left. He’s a locker room leader and he plays the run just as effectively as he rushes the passer. According to Pro Football Focus, he was tied with Calais Campbell of the Jacksonville Jaguars for the most tackles for loss or no gain with 22 in 2018.
Lawrence’s impact on 2019 and beyond
The Dallas Cowboys hope Lawrence can continue his reign of terror. Randy Gregory was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating the substance abuse policy. Furthermore, 2017 first-round draft Taco Charlton has been mostly ineffective in his first two seasons in the league. This is part of the reason the Cowboys brought in former Pro Bowler Robert Quinn to compliment Lawrence.
The only red flag with Lawrence is his impending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. Teams should always be wary about committing long-term to a player who is injured. But, the Cowboys feel comfortable enough to give Lawrence $105 million despite the existing injury.
The Cowboys finally locked up Lawrence and they hope he will live up to his “Tank” nickname for years to come. Quinn will draw some attention and Lawrence will be healthy. These two things together will help Lawrence continue to dominate.