The Cowboys have yet to apply the franchise tag to defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. It appears that it will be the only way to keep him off the open market.
Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the Cowboys and Lawrence are “not close” on a long-term deal. Barring an “unexpected miracle offer,” the Cowboys will be forced to apply the franchise tag, if they want to block him from unrestricted free agency.
Because Lawrence was franchise-tagged in 2018, his 2019 franchise tender becomes a 20-percent increase over his $17.1 million base salary from a year ago. That’s $20.56 million.
And that number surely complicates discussions on a long-term deal. With Lawrence looking at $20.56 million now and, by rule, a 44-percent increase in 2020, $29.6 million later, that’s more than $50 million over the next two years. Unless the Cowboys are willing to guarantee that much money in the first two years of a multi-year contract, Lawrence could keep playing it out, either getting $29.6 million next year (highly unlikely) or finally hitting the open market.
Don’t forget that Lawrence also could follow the Le'Veon Bell route, sitting out all of 2019 and forcing the Cowboys to apply the quarterback franchise tender to keep him in 2020. Which they likely wouldn’t do.
Then there’s the fact that Lawrence needs shoulder surgery. He has said he won’t get it done until he has a long-term deal. That feels like an effort to create an artificial deadline aimed at forcing a deal well in advance of the July 15 deadline for doing a long-term deal. But if Lawrence digs in regarding his refusal to let a surgeon dig in to his shoulder, that could complicate things as training camp arrives.