Cowboys, Lawrence begin contract negotiations apart

Cowboys
FILE - This June 5, 2017 file photo shows DeMarcus Lawrence of the Dallas Cowboys NFL football team. A person with knowledge of the decision says the Cowboys have placed the franchise tag on Lawrence, guaranteeing the Pro Bowl defensive end $17.5 million in 2018. The Cowboys had until Tuesday, March 6, 2018 to put the tag on Lawrence. The 25-year-old can still sign a long-term deal with the club that traded up him to get him early in the second round in 2014. Lawrence tied Jacksonville’s Calais Campbell for second in the NFL with 14 1/2 sacks last season. (AP Photo, file)

MOBILE, Ala. — There is still a chasm to be crossed between the Dallas Cowboys and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence as they agree on a new contract.

Lawrence, who has led the Cowboys in sacks for the past two seasons, will be an unrestricted free agent when free agency starts on March 13 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time. However, the Cowboys are trying to work out a new deal before then.

“I wouldn’t say we were a long ways apart; we’re apart,” Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said Tuesday at Senior Bowl practices. “Certainly DeMarcus has done his part to make us feel more comfortable. He put together now two back to back double-digit sack seasons. Of course he’s a leader by example on the field in terms of how he plays the game.

“Nothing’s changed in terms of my opinion, except for the better in terms of what type of player DeMarcus Lawrence is for our football team.”

In an off-season where the Cowboys have to consider re-signing receiver Cole Beasley and possibly extending quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, bringing back the two-time Pro Bowler is a “huge priority” for the Dallas front office.

“He’s a leader,” owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones said. “He’s on our leadership council, but he really did distinguish himself as a key player, a key leader. He was obviously an influential part of the defense. And, so, we certainly have a big future in mind with the Cowboys with Lawrence.”

Dallas wasn’t able to work out a deal with Lawrence last offseason and used the franchise tag, a makeshift one-year deal that kept the former 2014 second-round pick on the club with a salary cap impact of $17.1 million. They could tag Lawrence again, but the Cowboys would prefer to work out a new deal before March 5, the deadline to assign franchise and transition tags to players.

“We’re not going to not use it,” said Stephen. “But our goal is to sign him up long-term.”

The groundwork for an extension was laid in 2018 when Lawrence produced 10.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, an interception, and 15 tackles for loss in 16 games. Now, the Cowboys will use their visits with his agents during Senior Bowl week and also throughout the NFL combine in Indianapolis starting Feb. 26 to hammer out the details.

“We’ve got a good relationship with his agent and we’ll continue to work on getting this done,” Stephen said.

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