DeMarcus Lawrence is determined to finish what he started.
And motivated to stay where he started.
That’s why Lawrence tore up the richest contract in Cowboys history — before quarterback Dak Prescott arrived — for a more team-friendly deal. That’s why the defensive end, who turns 30 next month, has positioned himself to end his career with the team that took him near the top of the second round eight years ago.
“Me and the Cowboys for life has always been a dream,” Lawrence said. “I was lucky enough to be able to do it.
“Once the opportunity presented itself, it was a no-brainer.”
Lawrence agreed to a three-year, $40 million contract before free agency began. Although the $30 million guarantee was more than he had in the later years of his existing contract, he took less money overall.
What had been a $27 million salary cap this season was lowered to $14 million. The Cowboys desperately needed that play to fill out the roster around him.
“We are only as strong as our weakest link,” Lawrence said. “So if we don’t build and put good players around us, we can’t improve.
“That was one of the reasons I restructured, but also to be able to finish where I started and also have another opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. I don’t want to do it anywhere else. .
“I made that decision a long time ago and I’m just glad I’m still here.”
Lawrence doesn’t know much about Dante Fowler, the defensive end the club signed in free agency after losing Randy Gregory.
More on that in a moment.
But he knows the Cowboys have a bunch of good young players on this team who listen and respect the game. This list has veterans who know how to play and respect the game.
The Cowboys have that and a second year under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
“Being able to go into the offseason, being able to let him guide us and being able to train with him, train with the guys on the team, I think that will make us more complex,” Lawrence said. “To understand his playbook, his style of play and also to take it up a notch from last year.
“I feel like we built a good base last year and it’s time to build on that.”
Lawrence left for his morning practice last week, comforted that Gregory had agreed to a contract that would see him return to Dallas. Once he got home and started looking on Instagram and Twitter, he found that Gregory had changed his mind and agreed with Denver.
“It was a shock to me,” Lawrence said. “I heard the news like everyone else.
“Randy is a brother for life. I wish him nothing but the best. I’m glad he got paid the way he deserved.
“It’s a new chapter in his life and in our lives too, the life of the Cowboys.”
Gregory isn’t the only high-profile departure. The Cowboys let left guard Connor Williams and receiver Cedrick Wilson walk on free agency. The club traded receiver Amari Cooper and cut right tackle La’el Collins. Only two players from outside the organization at this stage have been added to make up for the exodus
Do you fear a talent drain?
“Have y’all seen what’s been going on in the NFL lately?” Lawrence asked reporters on Thursday’s conference call. “I’ve seen all 32 teams trade and lose players. I don’t even know the rosters of half of those teams anymore.”
Lawrence returned to the Star last week after signing his new contract. This is when the captain’s practices began, the sessions that lead to the team activities organized the following month.
He doesn’t seem to be kidding when he says those workouts “kicked our asses.”
But Laurent loves it. Although he missed 10 games last season with a broken foot, he returned in December to finish strong. It’s the healthiest it’s been in March for some time.
“Yeah, man, I’m really excited to be able to have a healthy offseason,” Lawrence said. “It can help propel my season to the one I had a few years ago.
“I’m not trying to be the player I was a few years ago. I’m trying to get past that. I’m trying to be better than I was, to learn from my mistakes I try to make the guys around me better, understanding the year I had 14.5 sacks (2017), as a team we weren’t at…”
Well, you get the idea.
“It’s all about production,” Lawrence said. “But also making sure we’re productive and winning games.”
It’s about making sure he does it in Dallas. Why is it so important to end your career with the Cowboys?
“You don’t want all your hard work to go unnoticed,” Lawrence said.
“Being able to finish the fight where you started, I know a lot of players wish they had the opportunity to do that. But you know, it doesn’t happen that way for everyone.
“I’m just lucky and happy to be in the position I’m in.”
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