Abbreviated training camps and an eliminated preseason has extended #SpeculationSZN into the late summer months. Capitalizing, Bleacher Report generated a list of trade offers each NFL team should make prior to the 2020 regular season, which remains on track to start in September.
The Dallas Cowboys‘ would-be blockbuster is a doozy. Columnist Kristopher Knox, referencing the Jamal Adams-to-Seahawks deal, speculates “it’s worth finding out” if Dallas can squeeze the Cleveland Browns for star defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.
The potential haul: First- and third-round picks in the 2021 draft.
At 28 years old, Lawrence is in his playing prime. With 29.5 sacks over the past three seasons, he’s a producer. The Cowboys should see what they can get from a pass rush-needy team like the Cleveland Brown.
Why? For cap purposes. Dallas is in a tricky situation, as it will likely be negotiating with quarterback Dak Prescott again next offseason. Early extensions for Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper have left the Cowboys with little cap space—currently just over $7 million—and 1,000-yard receiver Michael Gallup will be eligible for an extension next offseason.
Lawrence has a cap hit of roughly $22 million in each of the next two seasons. While he’s a Pro Bowl player when he’s at his best, that’s a lot of money for an 8-8 squad to be paying a second-tier edge-rusher.
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It’s curious that Knox constructed his argument around the salary cap; tied to Lawrence are monster financial ramifications for the club — negative ones. According to OverTheCap.com, Dallas would absorb $20 million in dead money, clearing only $2 million in cap room, by dealing the two-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher, who’s under contract through 2023.
True, Lawrence did not live up to the $105 million extension he signed prior to last season. But he’s first entering his prime at 28 and has fiercely vowed to prove a five-sack outlier is only that.
“Nothing happened to me last year,” Lawrence said earlier this offseason on FOX Sports 1, via the Dallas Morning News. “I know I ended the season with five sacks, but I also helped other players boost their numbers back up to double digits. It’s not a one-man game, and I know how to play the game the right way. I know how to make plays when plays come my way. And I also know how to make sure my teammates are making their plays. You don’t have to worry about nothing. Trust me, the sack number will be back up.”
The Cowboys fortified the defensive line in free agency by signing six-time Pro Bowl lineman Gerald McCoy (59.5 career sacks) and Dontari Poe (20.5) and edge rusher Aldon Smith (47.5). They also retained veteran DE Tyrone Crawford (23) and spent third- and fifth-round choices on DL Neville Gallimore and DE Bradlee Anae, respectively.
Point being, they boast the bodies to sustain Lawrence’s theoretical departure. But just because they can, doesn’t mean they should. The value he provides, underachieving or not, strongly outweighs the upside of unknown future players.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL