FRISCO, Texas -- It was a surreal scene of sorts at Prime 47 in Indianapolis last week at the NFL scouting combine.
At one table inside the steakhouse sat the Dallas Cowboys' entourage. Just a few feet away at a table near the front window were David Canter, the agent for defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and members of his team at DEC Management.
If there was animosity between the sides, it was hard to tell, but there was not enough compromise for them in their discussions to work out a long-term agreement for Lawrence.
On Monday, the Cowboys put the franchise tag on Lawrence for the second straight year, paying him at least $20.5 million in 2019.
Now that the tag is in place, what are the options available?
Play on the tender
If Canter and the Cowboys do not get a long-term deal done by July 15, this is the only option. The Cowboys were minutes away from that happening in 2015 with Dez Bryant, but were able to sneak a five-year, $70 million deal in under the wire.
The last time the Cowboys had a player on the franchise tag in consecutive years was outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, who earned a total of $19.4 million over the 2012-2013 seasons. If Lawrence again plays on the tag, he will earn a total of $37.6 million over the two seasons.
Without a deal, Lawrence will not take part in the offseason program, organized team activities, minicamp and training camp. He also needs shoulder surgery, which has yet to be scheduled. The timing of the surgery will determine when Lawrence can get on the field, but the Cowboys planned on him missing most of the offseason program anyway.
Sign a long-term deal
This is the best of both worlds for both parties.
The Cowboys want to secure Lawrence's services for the long term because of what he means to the defense. He has totaled 25.0 sacks and been named to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons. Lawrence wants a long-term deal so he can secure the most guaranteed money possible (upward of $60 million) in a sport in which careers can end quickly.
This should not be as difficult as both sides are making it out to be.
The Cowboys bear some culpability for not engaging in talks until sending an offer over a few days before the combine. They could have started talks as soon as they lost to the Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 12 in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Canter is out to secure the most he can for his client in what will be the best chance for Lawrence, but there has to be some give and take.
The Cowboys have a history of taking care of their own. Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin come to mind in recent years. At the time of the signings, those three were the highest paid at their positions.
Khalil Mack makes $23.5 million per year -- the most among edge pass-rushers -- from the Chicago Bears after his trade from the Oakland Raiders last season. Lawrence is not going to top that, but he could become the second-highest paid among edge rushers.
Under terms of the tag, teams are required to hand over two first-round picks to the Cowboys to sign Lawrence. The chances of that happening are as slim as those of the Cowboys moving up to the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft.
In 2000, the Cowboys gave up consecutive first-round picks to the Seattle Seahawks to sign wide receiver Joey Galloway, and he suffered a season-ending knee injury in his first game.
But the Cowboys could be willing to accept a different level of compensation for Lawrence, either a combination of picks or picks and players.
What could the Cowboys get for Lawrence, who turns 27 in April? Probably not two first-rounders, but perhaps they could get one from a team late in the round. They don't have a first-round pick this year because of the Amari Cooper trade.
Of course, if they trade Lawrence, they don't have their best pass-rusher and will have to find a replacement.
Elite pass-rushers usually do not become available -- Reggie White being an exception way back in 1993. The Cowboys searched long and hard for what owner and general manager Jerry Jones calls a "war daddy," after cutting DeMarcus Ware after the 2013 season.
They traded up in the second round in 2014 to get Lawrence, who took some time to develop but led the Cowboys in sacks in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
Getting that kind of value in return would seem difficult.