The turnaround between implementation of the tender by the Cowboys and Lawrence accepting it took a mere six hours Monday. With one of the league's top sack artists locked up, the team now faces a deadline of July 16 to come to terms on a long-term deal, or else he'll play out the 2018 campaign on the aforementioned tag. Logging 67 percent of the Cowboys' defensive snaps last year, Lawrence's 14.5 sacks ranked second in the NFL behind only Chandler Jones' 17 and matched the Jaguars' Calais Campbell, the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year.
Lawrence was franchise tagged Monday, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.
As expected, the Cowboys are using the franchise tag on Lawrence while they continue negotiations on a long-term contract. There was never any real chance they'd let their top pass rusher get away, but that doesn't mean it will be easy to work out the details of a multi-year deal. After showing flashes his first three professional seasons, the 2014 second-round pick finally put together a dominant campaign in 2017, tallying 58 tackles, 14.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, albeit with most of that production coming in September and October.
The Cowboys will use their franchise tag on Lawrence before the 3 p.m. EST deadline March 6, but plan to continue negotiating with the defensive end through mid-July on a long-term contract, David Moore of The Dallas Morning News reports.
Dallas' top priority this offseason is re-signing Lawrence, a goal executive vice president Stephen Jones reiterated at the Senior Bowl last month, Brandon George of The Dallas Morning News reports. At the very least, Lawrence will return to Dallas next season and take home a hefty payday while the franchise tag remains in place, but the Cowboys are hopeful that will only be a temporary arrangement until they're able to reach terms on a long-term deal with the 25-year-old, who notched a career-high and team-leading 14.5 sacks last season. The Cowboys will have until July 16 to work out an extension with Lawrence and lower his cap hit for 2018 in the process.
Lawrence's agent, David Canter, expects contract talks with the Cowboys to kick into gear at the NFL Combine in late February, ESPN reports. "It's really up to them to want to do a deal that's in line with what the market is for a young, ascending, elite franchise-caliber defensive end," Canter said. "Whatever that number ends up being remains to be seen. But I do imagine and believe that we'll have multiple conversations over the next month or so. I think it's early right now."
If the two sides aren't able to agree to a long-term deal, Lawrence will almost certainly get the franchise tag from Dallas, so there's little chance of him being in another uniform in 2018. The 25-year-old came into last season with nine career sacks, but he picked the perfect time to stay healthy and more than double that total, racking up 14.5 sacks in the final year of his rookie contract.
Lawrence expects to return to the Cowboys in 2018, either after signing a long-term contract in the offseason or via the franchise tag, Todd Archer of ESPN reports. "I mean, I already know what my situation is," Lawrence said Monday. "I really don't care about it because I already know how the Cowboys feel about me, and they know how I feel about the organization. My agent will take care of everything, bro. He knows how it feels. He knows my right moves, so he'll do it."
The fourth-year pass rusher is due for a huge raise after recording a career-high 14.5 sacks in 2017, tying Calais Campbell for second in the league behind Chandler Jones. Getting Lawrence locked into a long-term deal is likely to be one of the Cowboys' top priorities over the spring, but with David Irving and Anthony Hitchens also headed for free agency, the team may not have enough cap space available to keep all of its key defensive personnel.
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