Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is reportedly unlikely to sign the franchise tag. What does this mean for the New York Jets?
The New York Jets will be scouring the market this offseason in search of any help at the pass rusher position. Luckily for them, a recent development down south could leave the team with a major opportunity in a few weeks.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is currently one of the hottest commodities with a soon-to-expire contract. The two-time Pro Bowler finished up his rookie deal with the Cowboys prior to last season before playing under the franchise tag in 2018. Despite earlier reports that the team would try and tag Lawrence again, this now seems very unlikely.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero has reported that Lawrence would refuse to sign another franchise tag with the team after he had made it very clear that he was looking for a long-term extension prior to being tagged last season. This leaves the Cowboys in a sticky situation as they try to manage one of their premier players.
Looking at the statistics, it’s hard to say that Lawrence hasn’t earned a long-term deal. The Boise State product has made the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons and has posted 25 total sacks over that same timespan. Pro Football Focus gave him a spectacular 88.0 grade which ranks him as the No. 9 edge defender in the league.
The Cowboys were understandably hesitant to give Lawrence his desired extension after his breakout 2017 campaign. Before that season, the man they call “Tank” had suffered through inconsistent play highlighted by a fractured foot in his rookie season and a four-game suspension in 2016.
But at this point, it’s safe to say that Lawrence has very much earned his contract.
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The two sides will likely try to work out an extension over the coming weeks and the unofficial deadline for a deal has reportedly been set at March 5th, the last day to place the franchise tag on players. If Lawrence and the Cowboys are unable to get a deal done by that date, it’s likely Dallas tries to tag and trade him in an attempt to get something back for him.
While he still could theoretically become a free agent, it still seems unlikely.
If the Cowboys do decide to tag him with the intention of keeping him, there’s a good chance that Lawrence opts to hold out of offseason activities, training camp, and even into the season if the two fail to work out a long-term extension.
Although it’s still likely he returns to the Cowboys in 2019, Lawrence’s refusal to play under another franchise tag does create a bit of possibility that he is playing for a new team next year.
With a major need at edge rusher, the Jets would be glad to hand over a blank check to Lawrence were he to hit the market. If “Tank” were to become a free agent, he would likely be the most sought after player in this year’s class.
But the more likely scenario, if he were to switch teams, is to have the Cowboys tag and trade him to potential suitors.
This would be a less appealing scenario for the Jets as they are not looking to trade away many draft picks to acquire talent. Still, if the Jets were able to acquire him via a trade, they would certainly be able to immediately give him the extension he has been longing for.
When all is set and done, it would be surprising to see Lawrence anywhere but on the Cowboys in 2019. But the Jets and the rest of the NFL will be hoping that this little wrinkle compounds into a much bigger issue for both sides.