The Dallas Cowboys will have a big decision to make this offseason as both Demarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens could hit the open market.
The 2018 season brings a lot of questions to the NFL as a whole. The Dallas Cowboys may be facing the biggest question on the defensive side of the ball since the topic of re-signing DeMarcus Ware. Should the Dallas Cowboys re-sign Demarcus Lawrence or Anthony Hitchens?
It is a difficult question because both players have played very well this season. Lawrence is the NFL sack leader and has been a disruptive force for months. It appears that health and technique have finally unlocked his production.
Hitchens has also been very good at what the Dallas Cowboys ask him to do. Fill in for Sean Lee, no problem, play tough against the run, no problem, improve his coverage abilities, no problem.
Hitchens is truly a Rod Marinelli style of player, a lesser known linebacker who focuses on doing his job properly. The Dallas Cowboys are currently 13th in the NFL in sacks which is a huge improvement from recent history, Lawrence has a lot to do with that.
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So what are the Cowboys options? Well, Lawrence seems to be the perfect candidate this season for the franchise tag, as long-term contract negotiations will be tough with a player of his caliber.
I could not imagine Lawrence being an individual who would chase money instead of production. He will not have a bigger role anywhere else than he does in Dallas. If you also look at the potential destinations in 2018, they are not that flattering.
The Minnesota Vikings are probably the most interesting team that should have substantial cap space, but they already have a left defensive end in Danielle Hunter, who is pretty good.
They also have other needs on the roster so targeting Lawrence is unlikely. The best thing that could happen in this situation is that Lawrence is giving a long-term deal after he is tagged.
The Dallas Cowboys have not forgotten about his injury history or his lack of sacks in the past, however coming to a fair deal with the team’s best pass rusher is the best option for both sides.
Hitchens, on the other hand, could get offered some interesting deals. I think it is possible for the team to retain both players but if the San Francisco 49ers or Cleveland Browns need linebacker help he could be priced out of the Dallas Cowboys range.
Hitchens is a fantastic run stopper and those abilities are only highlighted when Sean Lee is on the field. He has however never struck me as a franchise guy at the position, instead more of a player who does his job and works hard.
He will not accumulate a ridiculous sack total or even get a lot of turnovers, but he rarely makes mistakes. Teams that are in full rebuild mode could be looking to add Hitchens as a stop gap player such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets, or Indianapolis Colts.
The most interesting name in the top 10 teams with the most salary cap space is Detroit. The Lions defense is fairly good already, and they need another run stuffing linebacker.
Detroit could make him an offer that would be tough for the Dallas Cowboys to match. At this point bringing back Lawrence is an absolute necessity and if the team loses Hitchens in the process that could be worth the sacrifice.