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Cowboys news: Demarcus Lawrence is franchise tagged, more combine prospects

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The news includes some combine fallout and a question about Jason Garrett’s aggressiveness.

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Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Cowboys place franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence - Kevin Patra, NFL.com
As expected, the Cowboys placed the franchise tag on defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence Monday.

"We won't let D-Law not be a Dallas Cowboy next year. We'll get that straight right now," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said last month, per Dave Helman of the team's official website. "We'll do everything we can to try to make something work, and if we don't get it done then we'll franchise tag him. Then we'll go back to work. We'd like to not have that franchise tag hanging out there. We've got a big negotiation ahead of us. But we don't want Demarcus Lawrence going anywhere."

Lawrence compiled 14.5 sacks in 2017, second-most in the NFL. The game-wrecking defensive end was an early candidate for Defensive Player of the Year after earning 10.5 sacks in the first seven games of the season.

Sides have until July 16 to work out a long-term contract or Lawrence will play under the one-year tender for $17.143 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

Lawrence responded immediately and positively through social media:

Why Cowboys gave DeMarcus Lawrence franchise tag - Adam Stites, SBNation.com
Stites looks at the difficulty Dallas has had replacing future Ring of Honor member DeMarcus Ware and how that played into the decision to franchise Lawrence:

After Ware left to join the Denver Broncos in 2014, the Cowboys drafted Lawrence in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. They followed that pick with Randy Gregory in the second round in 2015 and Taco Charlton in the first round in 2017.

The Cowboys also signed free agents like Greg Hardy and Jeremy Mincey to add to the pass rush.

The book is still out on Charlton, but even after Lawrence’s emergence, the Cowboys finished 15th in the NFL in sacks and will need to continue to search for more help on the defensive line.

Lawrence is the only one of the Cowboys’ recent additions who has developed into the pass rusher the team need. Losing him wasn’t an option.

Lawrence also wasted no time signing the franchise tag offer. Dez Bryant refused to do so during the 2015 offseason.

Here’s the complete list of positions and their corresponding franchise tag numbers:

What comes next after Cowboys slap franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence K. D. Drummond, Cowboys Wire
K. D. Drummond looks at the impact of the Cowboys' franchising Lawrence, including the immediate impact on the team's salary cap:

The impact is immediate. As soon as the new league year starts, the full amount of the franchise tag is “on the books” for the Cowboys. That will greatly limit what they can do in free agency, of course. The team has obviously been planning for this but the tag will cause a domino effect to a certain degree. Players will need to be released or restructured to create room for the start of the league year, which is just nine days away, March 14.

The salary cap has not been determined yet, but it projected to be between $178 million and $182 million, based on the increases of the last several years. Dallas would have around $18 million – $22 million of space before the tag was applied.

Salary cap $177.2M, Cowboys have $16.4M space before Lawrence tag - K. D. Drummond, Cowboys Wire
Later in the day the actual 2018 salary cap numbers were released and came in a little lower than expected.

Currently, Dallas has 56 players on their roster, with their Top 51 counting for $168,630,327, based on the NFL Player’s Association website. The Cowboys will rollover $7,874,774 of unused cap space from 2017, a function of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, which will bring their total cap ceiling up to $185.07 million.

This leaves Dallas with approximately $16.4 million of cap space to spend.

Can Jason Garrett keep up with Doug Pederson? – Bob Sturm,The Athletic
Sturm compares Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett to Super Bowl champion coach Doug Pederson in terms of aggressiveness and finds Garrett to come up wanting.

Wow. If I understand things correctly, the win total of a team may swing 1.5 wins per season based on simply knowing what makes sense and what doesn't on 4th downs alone. If you missed the playoffs by one game in 2017, perhaps that feels like a rather big deal.

Given that Pederson has a counter-conventional idea of what to do on 4th downs and it seems to fly in the face of the man he faces when he plays Dallas twice a year, I find this to be a fascinating juxtaposition of Pederson and his Dallas adversary, Jason Garrett.

Garrett, starting his 9th season at the helm of the Dallas Cowboys, has been called ultra-conservative and risk-averse for years. If you scan your memory banks about the riskiest decision he has ever made in a game, you will no doubt consider his “you don't lay up at the Masters” moment when Tony Romo hit Jason Witten on a 4th and 6 to help them beat Detroit in the 2014 Wildcard game. But, to explain why that play was such a big deal, consider that there was no other moment in the 2014 season when the Cowboys ran a play on 4th and more than 2 to go (save for a desperation throw in OT against Washington in Week 3).

How the Eagles Followed the Numbers to the Super Bowl - Ben Shpigel, The New York Times
Sturm’s piece referenced a NYT’s article regarding the Eagles’ aggressive embrace of statistical analytics that’s worth checking out. Just guessing here, but I imagine five years from now much of these “revolutionary” ideas will be “conventional wisdom”.

In fairness, Frigo said, he has never seen a franchise behave quite like the Eagles, one of several teams that subscribes to EdjSports’s predictive tools. The Eagles’ shrewd application of analytics to everything from roster management to in-game strategy helped propel them to a 13-3 record and a berth in Super Bowl LII against the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Analyzing every team’s risk-management style, EdjSports determined that Philadelphia optimizes decisions — on fourth down, especially — better than its peers by a substantial margin.

“The Eagles capture value at every turn,” said Tony DeFeo, the president of EdjSports, “because they understand where the value lies.”

That understanding saturates an organization that not only accepts counterintuitive thinking but encourages it. The approach pervades every layer, from ownership to the football operations department, and from its analytics team to a coaching staff comfortable with mining statistical analysis for advantages. Philadelphia’s defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz, who earned an economics degree at Georgetown, has long been one of the league’s leading devotees of statistical analysis — Frigo has known him for more than a decade — and some of his players said this week that they preferred studying probabilities and tendencies even before studying situations or receivers’ routes.

A Letter to NFL GMs - Shaquem Griffin, The Players' Tribune
NFL prospect Shaquem Griffin impressed at the combine by bench pressing 225 pounds 20 times despite missing a hand. His story is compelling as told by himself over at the Players' Tribune. Do yourself a favor and find out more about this inspiring individual.

I was thinking the other coach’s scale must be broken or something. It didn’t even occur to me that somebody might deliberately try to keep me off the football field. I was just a little kid, you know? Too young to understand that people got motives.

So my coach took me back over to the guy who weighed me in so we could do it again, and — now, this is a long time ago, so I don’t remember exactly what was said, but basically, the opposing coach said that it wasn’t about my weight.

It was about my hand.

He said I shouldn’t have been allowed to play football at all.

Because football is for two-handed players.

Mind you, I didn’t even know this guy. So I didn’t know why he had a problem with me playing. I had been playing for a few years and I was pretty good, so maybe he just wanted to keep one of our team’s better players off the field so his team had a better chance to win. I honestly don’t know.

But this was the first time I ever had to deal with somebody telling me I shouldn’t — or couldn’t — do something because of my hand. Like I was defective or something. Like I didn’t belong.

And that was the moment I realized I was always going to have to prove people wrong.

3 Cowboys targets whose stock rising at NFL Combine - John Owning, FanRag Sports
Speaking of the combine, Fanrag's John Owning provides insights into three potential Cowboys' targets, including wide receiver D. J. Moore:

One of the biggest risers at the NFL Combine is D.J. Moore. Measuring in at six feet tall and 210 pounds, Moore eased any size and catch-radius concerns evaluators had. Moore continued to answer any questions surrounding his athletic ability by posting a 4.43-second 40-yard dash while registering an 11-foot broad jump and a 39.5-inch vertical — which would have been the 10th-best weight adjusted vertical jump at last year’s combine.

Moore proved that he is one of the best athletes in this draft regardless of position, something the NFL covets at the wide receiver position.

Regardless of what happens with Dez Bryant, the Cowboys would be wise to consider Moore in the first round. He is dynamic with the ball and can create separation as a route runner. Moore would be an ideal No. 2 receiver with the ability to grow into a high-octane No. 1 WR in Year 2 or 3 and beyond.

5 things we learned about the Dallas Cowboys from Jerry Jones at the combine - Jon Machota, SportsDay
We all know the Cowboys like to make a splash wherever they go and last weekend's combine was no different. Jon Machota provides the details.

Of the 32 NFL teams that spent the previous week at the league's annual scouting combine, only one traveled around Indy in a tour bus with its team logo on the side.

It's quite the attraction for fans. Whether it's parked in front of a fancy steakhouse, the team's hotel or Lucas Oil Stadium, fans often stop to take pictures alongside it. Some even yell thoughts about the team, thinking Jerry Jones or someone else in the organization might hear them.

Jerry Jones held a presser on board the bus and Machota notes that Jerry is asking a question many of us have asked.

Jones acknowledged Saturday that Philadelphia winning its first Super Bowl "raises the bar" and puts "pressure" on the Cowboys.

His main point was that they have similar teams. However, one was able to overcome not having some of their key players on the field and the other was not.

"Really for me, it sure eliminates one of the real excuses," Jones said before ending his thought by jokingly taking a shot at himself. "We got some comparables to where they are, so then why not us? What's wrong with us?