There’s no shortage of great defensive players in 2019’s free agency, but defensive end Demarcus Lawrence might just be the best of the bunch. Lawrence initially entered the NFL as a second-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2014 NFL Draft. Lawrence played the entirety of 2018 on the franchise tag and it’s hard to imagine the Cowboys tagging Lawrence twice, so the five-year NFL veteran should test the open market.
2019 NFL Free Agency Profile: Demarcus Lawrence
There haven’t been many pass rushers better than Demarcus Lawrence over the past two seasons. Since the beginning of 2018, Lawrence has recorded 25 sacks, six forced fumbles, 122 tackles, and three fumble recoveries. A truly dominant player, there has yet to be a tackle capable of stopping him for an entire game. Von Miller and Khalil Mack are unparalleled, but DeMarcus Lawrence has a solid case for being the third-best defensive end in football since 2017.
Lawrence’s best season came during the 2017 year. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Lawrence recorded 14.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and 58 tackles while starting in all 16 games. This breakout performance made the third-ranked edge rusher in football, per Pro Football Focus. Dallas placed the franchise tag on him in 2018, and Lawrence proved that his dominance wasn’t a one-year fluke. While he wasn’t quite as good as his 2017 form, he still ranked as the 10th-best edge defender, per Pro Football Focus.
Every team in the league would love to have Lawrence on their roster, but most teams cannot afford him. Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald earned over $20 million per year last year, showing that teams are willing to pay quarterback money to elite pass-rushers. Lawrence probably won’t get that type of a payday, but he’ll probably get in the $17-19 million range.
The Dallas Cowboys are projected to have a bit over $54.5 million in cap space, according to OverTheCap.com. Dallas has a history of paying their players and not letting them leave, and that could very easily continue with Lawrence. At this point in the season, Dallas looks like the favorite to re-sign their homegrown talent.
Should Lawrence hit free agency, the most likely landing spots are the Indianapolis Colts and the Cleveland Browns. The Colts finished 2018 with a 10-6 record and are in a position to build an absolute monster in 2019. Flush with over $117 million in cap space, the Colts can afford to sign whoever they want. The biggest weakness with the 2018 Colts was their inconsistent pass rush, and Lawrence could fix that all on his own.
Likewise, the Cleveland Browns are a franchise with ample cap space and a promising future. Boasting over $82 million in cap space, Cleveland should be looking for an edge rusher to pair alongside Myles Garrett. The duo could form one of the pass-rushing tandems in football. Aside from money, the Browns have a promising future which would make any free agent want to come to Cleveland. The Browns boast a strong secondary and have a budding star in quarterback Baker Mayfield. Quite frankly, the Browns should expect to make the playoffs in 2019, and adding Lawrence will only help with that goal.
Last Word on Demarcus Lawrence in 2019 NFL Free Agency
Demarcus Lawrence is one of the best edge defenders in football, and his bank account is about to get a lot bigger. Lawrence has recorded 25 sacks over the past two seasons, never taking a play off and always disrupting the quarterback. He’s not on the level of Aaron Donald or Khalil Mack, but their record-setting deals ensure that Lawrence will see a massive paycheck in 2019.
As of this posting, the Dallas Cowboys seem like a likely bet to re-sign their star pass rusher. Dallas has a fantastic young defense and Lawrence is a big part of that. With over $54.4 million in projected cap space, the Cowboys should be able to bring back their second-round pick.
Every team in the league will want Lawrence if he makes it to free agency, but the Indianapolis Colts and the Cleveland Browns have the best chance of landing him. Both teams have ample cap space and are capable of paying him whatever he wants. Additionally, both franchises look to have a bright future, which should only help their sales pitch to Lawrence. It’s possible that just about any one of the 32 NFL clubs makes a pitch for Lawrence, but doing so would create financial turmoil for teams trapped in bad cap position.
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