FRISCO, Texas — The negotiation dance between the Dallas Cowboys and DeMarcus Lawrence is at an “impasse,” according to executive vice president Stephen Jones. And the longer the one-two-three goes, the longer the prospect grows of shoulder surgery that awaits the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end.
Unless Lawrence goes full-on Le’Veon Bell and opts to sit out the season, he will play football for some team in 2019 and will need to repair his shoulder if he wants to play at an elite level.
The issue has lingered for the past two seasons, and he wore a harness that limited some range of motion but still allowed him to play in 2018. Theoretically, Lawrence could do that again in 2019 and hope the harness helps keep the joint intact and allows him to play 16 regular-season games.
He recorded 25 sacks in 2017 and ’18 combined, but how much more can the shoulder withstand? Nobody truly knows; however, the surgery would give more assurance it will hold up.
If you were the Cowboys — or another team willing to sign or trade for Lawrence — you would want him to have the surgery to alleviate issues. What would happen if he did not have the surgery and re-injured the shoulder in during training camp?
That’s a lot of money down the drain, so to speak, if the player can’t play a full season in the first year of a new deal.
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“This is a contract to play football, and the first year is a big one,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones told reporters this week at the NFL owners meetings in Arizona. “At the kinds of dollars we’re talking about, it’s just a given that you’d get the full year at top physical condition, that’s what you’re getting.
“If you don’t get that, it depreciates what you’re doing. It works both ways.”
Lawrence has opted to wait to have the labrum repair. The normal recovery time is three to four months. Even if he’d had the surgery once the 2018 season ended in January, the Cowboys’ plan was to restrict what Lawrence did in organized team activities and minicamp anyway, like they do with most players coming off injury.
While the team and Lawrence’s agent, David Canter, have until June 15 to work out a long-term deal, the window would seem to be shorter than that given the recovery time for surgery.
The Cowboys will report to training camp in Oxnard, California, toward the end of July. With a three-to-four-month rehabilitation period from the surgery, the middle of April would seem to be the drop-dead date to have the operation without it affecting Lawrence’s ability to be ready for camp and ultimately the start of the season.
Let’s say Lawrence eventually opts to play on the franchise tag for the second consecutive year and make $20.5 million for 17 weeks, or $1.205 million per week, whenever he would sign. Well, in order to cash in on a long-term deal in 2020, he would need another double-digit sack season. Doing that would seemingly require a shoulder that is as close to 100 percent as possible.
The Cowboys will not use the franchise tag on Lawrence for a third straight season, because that would require them to pay him the quarterback tag number. They could use the transition tag, but without a long-term deal it’s very likely that 2019 would be Lawrence’s final season with Dallas.
For now, Jerry Jones is content to sit back and wait on what he says is a natural ebb and flow of contract talks.
“We all understand that in a negotiation, both parties can really want to get it done but they’ve just got to go into the area where they have some disagreements, usually it’s about the amount of money or the time you’re talking about, issues like that,” he said. “You can have times when you feel real good, feel like you’re making progress, and you can have times when you don’t feel as good.
“This isn’t in any way unique to DeMarcus.”
In 2015, the Cowboys and Dez Bryant took to the final minutes before beating the franchise-tag deadline before the receiver signed a five-year, $70 million deal. Last season, Zack Martin’s extension that included $40 million in guarantees took a little longer to get completed.
These contracts can take time. But in Lawrence’s case, the impending shoulder surgery has to speed up the timing.