The Dallas Cowboys could be forced to depart one of the highest-paid players on the team.
According to Calvin Watkins of The Dallas Morning News, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has turned down a pay cut from Cowboys management. Lawrence is scheduled to earn $19 million in the 2022 season as the third-highest paid player on the club. Only Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper — who is likely to be released at a salary of $20 million — are due to earn more than Lawrence.
As Watkins notes, any time a player rejects a pay cut, it means he’s likely to be released.
“Normally when a player rejects a pay cut he’s soon to be released,” says Watkins.
Lawrence Remains Elite Edge Rusher
Lawrence is a former two-time Pro Bowler (2017, 2018), but his production has declined in recent years. Lawrence posted 25 sacks, 49 quarterback hits and 29 tackles for loss in those two seasons. However, since he inked a five-year, $105 million contract extension in 2019, Lawrence hasn’t been the same player since.
The 29-year-old has posted just 14.5 sacks, 33 quarterback hits and 26 tackles for loss in the past three seasons. Lawrence appeared in only seven games during the 2021 season after breaking his foot in practice after the opener.
Despite his decline in production, the advanced analytics paint a different picture. According to Pro Football Focus, Lawrence posted a 90.9 defensive grade in 2021 — the fourth-highest grade of any edge rusher in the league. It was actually the second consecutive year that Lawrence ranked fourth among all edge rushers in defensive grade. In fact, it was the second-highest of his career, behind the the 91.9 defensive grade he registered in 2017, the highest of any edge rusher in the NFL.
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Cowboys Would Save Money With Lawrence Cut
If Lawrence is designated a post-June 1st cut, the Cowboys would save $19 million in cap space with $8 million in dead money.
The Cowboys appear set on cutting major players who haven’t lived up to their big contracts. Dallas enters the 2022 offseason more than $21 million over the salary cap, the third-worst figure in the league.
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones admitted that some tough decisions will need to be made regarding key players — such as Lawrence and Cooper — in the offseason.
“We go through every player on our roster,” Jones said from the scouting combine. “I know [the media] may target guys that you think we may be looking at and usually those are the guys who are making a lot of money. That comes with making money, unfortunately in this league. Is the value there? We’ll certainly work through that.”
Jones went on to say that Dallas may be forced to lose a “couple” of good players, but that Dallas will hopefully be able to rebound with good drafting and by making the right decisions in free agency.
“We just have to make some decisions,” Jones continued. “Some tough ones but I think the ones unfortunately if we lose a couple of good players, then hopefully we’ll continue to do a good job with our drafting process and look for value in free agency so we can draft the way we’ve historically drafted which is not on a need basis but on a best-player-available basis.”
As the Cowboys look to shed salary, it looks like they’ll have to move on from some of the most accomplished players on their roster.