2018 NFL Contract Projection: Free Agent DE Demarcus Lawrence

Demarcus Lawrence Measurables
Height: 6-3
Weight: 265
Age: 25
Experience: 4 seasons
Status: Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag ($17.1M)
1-Time Pro Bowler

Dallas Cowboys Projected Cap Space (Top 51): $18.5 million (per Over The Cap, as of March 1)

Demarcus Lawrence Profile

What a time to have your breakout season. The Cowboys watched Demarcus Lawrence blossom into an elite pass rusher in his contract year. He’s become the player they’d hoped for when selecting him 33rd overall in 2014—-an attempt to replace a future Hall of Famer with the same forename: DeMarcus Ware.

The Boise State product proved to be a disruptive presence, utilizing stellar hand technique, quickness, and a diverse pass-rush repertoire to affect the quarterback. Health aside, technique equals longevity, which Lawrence has refined.

“Tank” finished 2nd in the NFL in sacks (14.5) and total pressures (64.5), while ranking in the Top 10 in hits, hurries, and forced fumbles. Had more sacks in 2017 than he did in first three seasons combined.

Lawrence definitely has questions: injuries, suspensions and one year of production. Lawrence missed extensive time in two of his four seasons. A team considering the kind of investment Lawrence will demand must weigh these risks, but pass rushers are the 2nd-most valuable position in professional football.

Demarcus Lawrence Production

Season G Tack Sacks QBH Hurry Pres TFL FF FR QBH% Pres %
2017 16 58 14.5 26 37 64.5 14 4 2 5.83 15.9
2015 16 55 8 12 34 48 14 1 0 3.08 14.2
2016 9 11 1 6 9 15 3 1 0 2.46 6.7
2014 7 9 0 0 9 10 2 0 0 0 0
Totals 48 133 23.5 44 89 137.5 33 6 2 3.62 14.2

4-3 Defensive End Market

The market for pass rushers is always well. The Giants have both of the highest-paid 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL, in Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul. Lawrence is every bit the player as each of them.

Player Comparables: JAX Calais Campbell, NYG Olivier Vernon, NYG Jason Pierre-Paul

Contract Comparison

If a deal gets done this offseason, Lawrence will have been the youngest of player of the four at time of signing. Lawrence should look to capitalize on his youth. He’s arguably still approaching his prime, and elite pass rushers name their price in free agency. Lawrence will be paid handsomely for his services.

Player Year Years Total APY GTD F GTD  1st 3 ‘18 APY
Calais Campbell 2017 4 $60.0M $15.0M $30.0M $30.0M $45.0M $15.99M
Jason Pierre-Paul 2017 4 $62.0M $15.5M $40.0M $29.0M $49.5M $16.42M
Olivier Vernon 2016 5 $85.0M $17.0M $52.5M $40.0M $54.0M $19.49M
Averages 4.3 $69.0M $15.8M $40.8M $33.0M $49.5M $17.3M

 Contract information from OverTheCap.com

2018 Cap Adjusted Annual Salary: $17.3 million

Statistical Comparison (Two Year Averages Before Deal)

Even considering Lawrence’s one sack season in 2016, his two-year averages are on par with the highest-paid 4-3 defensive ends. Like Lawrence, Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul missed significant time before signing his extension, which is why his 2015 season is omitted below.

Player Seasons Sacks Pressures Hurry QB Hits TFL  FF FR
Calais Campbell 2015-16 6.5 37.5 20.5 20.5 14.0 1.0 2.0
Jason Pierre-Paul 2015 7.0 36.0 27.0 16.0 7.0 3.0 1.0
Olivier Vernon 2014-15 7.0 61.5 34.0 24.5 13.5 1.0 0.0
Averages   6.8 45.0 27.2 20.3 11.5 1.7 1.0
Demarcus Lawrence 2016-17 7.8 37.8 23.0 16.0 8.5 2.5 1.0


As Stephen Jones said, the Cowboys aren’t going to let Lawrence go anywhere.

He’ll be franchised soon, which will the give Cowboys Lawrence’s rights and weaken leverage in negotiations this offseason. If he plays on the tag, he’ll earn $17.5 million in 2018.

Reservation Price

Lawrence should set a $38-million floor for the first two seasons (2018 franchise tag and 120% increase for 2019 franchise tag). Anything less over that span would be a net loss.

Salary Floor: $15 million per year

There’s no reason for Lawrence to take any less than Campbell’s $15.0 million annual salary, adjusted for the 2018 salary cap ($16.0 million). Otherwise, Lawrence may be better suited to take the projected $17.5 million franchise tag for defensive ends.

Salary Ceiling: $18 million per year

Lawrence won’t be able to reach the Von-Miller, Ndamukong-Suh range, but he does have the potential to land right below them.

Contract Projection

Lawrence is a prime candidate for the franchise tag given his limited production and injury history. If the Cowboys and Lawrence to reach an agreement, Lawrence should land right around what Olivier Vernon did in 2016.

5 years, $83.75 million; $16.75 million APY, $35.0 million in full guarantees

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