Dallas Cowboys smartest move was locking up DeMarcus Lawrence

. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t have to choose. Even though DeMarcus Lawrence was on the books for $27 million next season and Randy Gregory was a free agent, the Dallas Cowboys could have easily kept both of their defensive bookends.

And they nearly did.

As we all know, at the behest of his Denver based agent, Randy Gregory backed out of his deal at the last moment. When Stephen Jones snuck in some voidable language in the 11th hour, that’s all the push Gregory needed to move to Colorado. But instead of focusing on that negative let’s point out the positive: The Cowboys prioritized correctly and locked in their most important player in question.

The Dallas Cowboys secured the correct defensive end this offseason when they locked up DeMarcus Lawrence

I fully realize both Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence have their share of haters in Cowboys Nation. Historically, Gregory’s been about as reliable as a French-made automobile and Lawrence has never been able to reproduce the sack numbers he first cashed in on in the 2017-18 seasons.

Now both of those are explainable and even excusable, but some in the fanbase cannot, and will not, see past it so we won’t dwell. The Cowboys shockingly did the right thing here and kudos is deserved. Even though Gregory is more explosive and more likely to put up bigger sack totals in 2022, Lawrence is the more important player for the Dallas Cowboys.

I realize why fans and media (and players and coaches) get hung up on sack numbers. It’s an easy to understand counting stat that’s obvious and impactful. It’s like touchdown totals and total yards for running backs. It’s easy to track and understand.

But like total yards for running backs, sacks are wildly misleading. We assume more is better but that ignores efficiency. It overlooks all the other aspects of the game that player is responsible for and doesn’t address overall contribution. Defensive ends are responsible for more than just getting sacks, after all. To grade a player on 1% of their total body of work is a sample size that would any mathematician blush.

So ignore the sack numbers and just focus on the impact.

How can we grade impact? Easy, with NFL tracking data we can grade the value of every single play. No, this isn’t arbitrarily grading the execution of a play like a scout. It’s measuring the impact actually made through expected points added (EPA).

Through EPA we can see how many tackles for loss equal one sack. We can see what each stop, each sack, and each splash is worth. Keep in mind, not all sacks are of the same value. Some sacks are far more impactful than others.

Using EPA we don’t count stats and vaguely apply value to them like most sack counters do. We grade the exact value of each one individually.

As you can see, DeMarcus Lawrence edges out Randy Gregory in EPA (negative is good for defensive players). Now, both players are among the NFL’s best in EPA against, so this in no way is meant to disparage Gregory. The guy was a beast last season.

This is simply to point out how impactful DeMarcus Lawrence is and how he was a good player to keep around.

While Gregory is the younger of the two players, Tank isn’t as old as some may think. He’s only 209 days older than Gregory and his game is technical and doesn’t rely on bend and explosion like Gregory’s game does. Tank’s game is built to last because it’s about fundamentals, technique, and savvy.

As a team leader, Tank is someone who other players lean on. He holds players accountable and makes everyone better when he’s on the field. Both directly and indirectly.

The Dallas Cowboys were wise to lock DeMarcus Lawrence up. It would have been nice to keep Randy Gregory, yes, but that ship has sailed. Tank is going to retire a Dallas Cowboy and that’s a very good thing. He’s a top defensive player in the NFL and he makes everyone better around him.

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This offseason hasn’t gone great for the Dallas Cowboys but they were smart to keep DeMarcus Lawrence because his impact on this team is irreplaceable.