Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys use franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence as contract extension talks stall

The Dallas Cowboys are slapping the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence who doesn’t intend to sign and the two sides are far apart on a long-term deal.

DeMarcus Lawrence is getting the franchise tag from the Cowboys and he’s not happy about it.

With the franchise tag deadline on March 5, the Cowboys and their star edge rusher Lawrence were, per a report from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill, “not close” to agreeing to a long-term deal.

Therefore, it only made sense for the Cowboys to use the franchise tag on Lawrence for a second straight season, guaranteeing that the star defensive end will remain on the team for the 2019 season. If on the open market, Lawrence would have been one of the most coveted free agents, as numerous teams around the league would love to grab a consistently disruptive edge rusher.

The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first reported the Cowboys would use the tag on Lawrence.

But while the franchise tag will keep Lawrence away from free agency on March 13, it doesn’t guarantee anything for the Cowboys beyond that. Lawrence, according to the Star-Telegram’s Hill, doesn’t plan on signing the franchise tag, meaning Dallas has until July 15 to work out terms on a long-term deal with the high-priced pass rusher.

It’s an interesting situation that seems higher-stakes than the contract impasse that played out a few years ago when the Cowboys hit Dez Bryant with the franchise tag, as a means of negotiating a long-term deal with their former franchise icon.

Lawrence has recorded at least 10 sacks and 14 tackles for loss in back-to-back seasons as one of the NFL’s most productive pass rushers, and while the Cowboys do have talented on the defensive side of the ball, boasting standouts like Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylen Smith and Byron Jones, they don’t have anyone off the edge who is as talented or nearly as proven as Lawrence, a matter compounded with the indefinite suspension of Randy Gregory.

In that sense, Lawrence holds plenty of value in negotiations this spring and summer, especially if he’s serious about not playing on the tag. Given the situation that transpired between Le’Veon Bell and the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, Dallas might not want to call Lawrence’s bluff, especially since an edge rusher in their prime should have even more value than a star running back.

If Lawrence were to play on the franchise tag this year, he’d make $20.5 million after already playing through the tag last year. But it sounds like he’s serious about getting his long-term deal from the Cowboys. At 26 and with plenty of past production to fall back on, Lawrence will command quite a sum of money.

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Based on Hill’s earlier report, there may be a huge gap between Lawrence’s asking price and what the Cowboys are willing to give, but the Cowboys, hungry for the Super Bowl title that has evaded them after yet another playoff appearance, may cave as the July 15 deadline approaches.

At the very least, the franchise tag buys the Cowboys some valuable time at the bargaining table with Lawrence, whose importance to the organization has become evident after a second straight season on the tag.

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