Cowboys franchise tag DE DeMarcus Lawrence

The top free agent of the 2019 class is off the market.

The Dallas Cowboys are placing the franchise tag on defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday, per a source. The team later made the news official.

Whether Lawrence signs the tag remains to be seen. This is the second straight year Dallas has slapped the tag on Lawrence, and the defensive end previously has intimated that he does not intend to sign the tender.

Lawrence and Cowboys brass have until July 15 to work out the long-term deal for which the defensive end is pining.

The news comes one day before the deadline to franchise-tag players and mere hours after the Houston Texanstagged their star pass rusher, Jadeveon Clowney.

Lawrence earned $17.1 million on the franchise tag last season. If Lawrence plays the 2019 season on the tag, he's expected to earn over $20 million.

There's no doubt Lawrence is deserving of a long-term deal somewhere. Over the past two seasons, during which he missed nary a game, Lawrence racked up 25 sacks and forced six fumbles. He's a top-five pass rusher in a league that is beginning to value players who hit quarterbacks as much as quarterbacks themselves.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones told NFL Network's Judy Battista last week that Dallas was "very confident we can get a deal done" with Lawrence, but didn't provide a timeline. In addition to retaining Lawrence's services, the Cowboys are also prioritizing re-signing Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott this offseason.

Monday's news doesn't end the saga that is and will be Dallas' negotiations with Lawrence. It's just the beginning. 

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