Can the Dallas Cowboys afford DeMarcus Lawrence and Earl Thomas?

Earl Thomas #29 (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Earl Thomas #29 (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The cost of doing business is rising and the contract demands for two Dallas Cowboys targets are higher than anticipated – can both players still be signed long-term?

At one point it seemed like a forgone conclusion the Dallas Cowboys would be adding Earl Thomas and re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence long-term, but as information leaks regarding their specific contract demands, things don’t seem quite as inevitable as they once did.

Further mucking up the waters, is the unexpected signing of once-retired Jason Witten. His $3.5-$5 million contract doesn’t break the bank, by any means, but it certainly impacts the available funds to work with this season. Now, many are concerned the Dallas Cowboys won’t have enough cap space to sign Thomas and/or Tank.

DeMarcus “Tank” Lawrence

Lawrence was slapped with the franchise tag yesterday, so it’s not like the Dallas Cowboys are going to lose him in free agency. But when the 2018 season wrapped up, we were left with the impression he’d get locked up early without use of the franchise tag. This would ensure his satisfaction with his employer and expedite the impending offseason surgery and rehab.

As you can expect, Tank isn’t exactly thrilled about playing under the tag again and is now a legitimate threat to delay his offseason surgery and even holdout should a long-term deal not get done. The Cowboys have made an offer but clearly Team Tank is looking for more. It’s hard to know what he wants exactly, but it’s safe to say he’s operating in Khalil Mack territory.

Earl Thomas

When Earl was back with the Seattle Seahawks, he was publicly disgruntled because he wanted a new contract. After Eric Berry signed his big deal in Kansas City, Earl suddenly felt underpaid. Seattle didn’t want to make him the highest paid safety so they let him play out his deal.

As we all know, a broken leg prematurely ended Thomas’ season. His injury, combined with a relatively deep free agent safety class, left many with the impression (myself included) the price of doing business with Earl dropped and a multi-year deal averaging $10 per season and with $30 million guaranteed would be enough to bring in Earl. Earl apparently doesn’t see things that way…

Related Story. How much will Earl Thomas and Landon Collins cost in free agency?. light

Seeking north of $13 million per season with majority guaranteed, Earl’s signing in Dallas doesn’t seem quite so imminent. Especially since Dallas prioritizes re-signing Dak Prescott and Tank to multi-year deals above anyone else.

So, the question we ask is whether or not the Cowboys can afford to sign long-term deals for Lawrence and Thomas this offseason.

Instead of thinking of the cap on the level of our own personal finances, we should think of it in more macro terms like a national economy. Savvy accounting can make just about anything happen and affording something is more about willingness than it is about hard and fast financial rules.

No, NFL teams can’t print money at will (frankly, neither should a national government) but teams can operate relatively unencumbered year-to-year as long as they properly evaluate players (both the cheap ones and the expensive ones).

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This isn’t to say teams can spend without any regard. Teams can still get in salary cap hell even with that savvy accounting. Poor multi-year investments and not enough usable young cheap labor is a recipe for disaster. But rarely, if ever, do teams get in trouble signing good players to market-fitting prices. It’s the underachieving players that ultimately doom a franchise.

So can Dallas afford to sign Lawrence and Thomas and still eventually re-sign Dak, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Byron Jones, and Jaylon Smith over the next couple seasons? Again, “yes”. As long as Dallas isn’t misevaluating players, they can afford to pay big money to big-time producers.

Cap space can be manipulated but it’s still finite. Don’t assume these players are asking for more than Dallas can afford. They can afford it. The question is do they feel like paying it.

Next. Why Earl Thomas is a better fit at safety than Landon Collins. dark

Earl Thomas and DeMarcus Lawrence are asking for more money than we once thought but given the current state of the Dallas Cowboys, they can afford to sign anyone they want. The question is – how bad do they want these guys…

  • Published on 03/05/2019 at 12:09 PM
  • Last updated at 03/05/2019 at 12:09 PM