The Le’Veon Bell odyssey ultimately taught anyone paying attention one key lesson: That a player who is franchise tagged a second time can skip the full season and essentially avoid another franchise tag.
The next player to roll the dice by sitting still is Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. As noted by Charean Williams, Lawrence won’t play under the franchise tag for a second time. In past years, that would have been regarded as hollow bluster. It now needs to be taken more seriously.
Lawrence could pause his career by a season and force the Cowboys to choose between letting him hit the open market or apply a third franchise tender in the amount of the average salary of the five highest-paid quarterbacks. That amount would easily exceed $25 million for 2020.
The Cowboys would still have the ability to use the transition tag on Lawrence, but that would still give him a shot at the open market, with the Cowboys retaining only the right to match an offer sheet signed with a new team.
So what would Lawrence get on the open market? Well, consider this: Last year, the Bears made pass-rusher Khalil Mack the highest-paid defensive player in league history, despite having to also surrender significant draft-pick compensation. If the Bears could have gotten Mack without giving up a single pick or player, the average compensation could have exceeded $30 million.
For Lawrence, who knows what he’d get if he sits out a year? And while some would argue that the $20.5 million he’d be forfeiting in 2019 would never be recovered, he’d be preserving his body while also swinging for the fences on a multi-generational payday.
Whether he does it or not, we now know that he can. And maybe, in the end, he will.