The Dallas Cowboys have agreed to a five-year, $105 million deal with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence with $65 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN.
The Cowboys placed the franchise tag on Lawrence before free agency started that would have guaranteed him $20.5 million, but the idea was to use that as a placeholder to a contract that would make him among the highest-paid pass rushers and a Cowboy for the foreseeable future.
Without the long-term deal, a source said Lawrence would not have taken part in the offseason program, organized team activities, minicamp and training camp and potentially could have skipped some regular season games.
Next up for Lawrence will be shoulder surgery that will keep until training camp. Lawrence played last season with a torn labrum.
Lawrence played on the franchise tag in 2018 worth $17.1 million with the Cowboys hoping he could repeat his Pro Bowl-level of play from 2017 when he had 14.5 sacks.
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In 2018, Lawrence finished with 10.5 sacks and 39 quarterback pressures and was named to the Pro Bowl for the second straight year. The coaches credited him with 47 tackles and 12 tackles for loss. He also had an interception, a fumble recovery and forced two fumbles, while playing through a shoulder injury.
He became the first Cowboy to post back-to-back seasons with double-digit sacks since DeMarcus Ware in 2011-12.
Lawrence had five of his 10.5 sacks in the first four games of the season. He closed the season with a sack in each of the final two games. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli considers Lawrence one of the best defensive linemen in the game not just because of his pass rushing ability but his willingness to play the run.
The Cowboys traded up in the second round of the 2014 draft to take Lawrence with the 34th overall pick. His rookie year was hampered by a foot injury suffered in training camp, but he had two sacks in the two playoff games. In 2015, he led the Cowboys with eight sacks.
After that season, he had his first of two back surgeries and had just one sack in 2016 after missing the first four games of the season because of a suspension. The Cowboys sat him for the final three games of the regular season in order to get him healthier for the playoffs.
The second surgery after the 2016 season corrected the disk issue, and he has not missed a game since.
Lawrence does not turn 27 until April 28, fitting into the Cowboys’ long-held desire to keep their young players, as they have done for years, most recently with offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin.
With Lawrence’s deal settled, the Cowboys can turn their attention to wide receiver Amari Cooper, quarterback Dak Prescott and potentially running back Ezekiel Elliott and cornerback Byron Jones.
Cooper, Prescott and Jones are signed through 2019, while Elliott can be under contract through 2020 thanks to the fifth-year option the team will exercise later this spring.
The Cowboys’ goal has been to re-sign their own players and use free agency to fill holes while not overpaying. The Cowboys had talks with the agents for the four Pro Bowlers at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis but the expectation was they would get more involved after the early wave of free agency and the draft.