clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Dexter Lawrence deserves to be paid as a top DT, but how and when?

With the explosion of the defensive tackle market, Lawrence is due a large raise

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants
Dexter Lawrence
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

It’s been the offseason of the defensive tackle.

Last year, there was a run on lucrative wide receiver contracts. This year, it was the big men in the middle of the defense.

Now, the New York Giants have to pay their own.

Following big extensions signed by Daron Payne and Jeffery Simmons, Dexter Lawrence is the next at the plate. He’s joined by the Jets’ Quinnen Williams and the Dolphins’ Christian Wilkins.

Getting a deal done should be a priority for the Giants. Williams is reportedly seeking between $23-25 million per year. Simmons received $23.5 million in average annual value with $66 million guaranteed. The longer the Giants wait, the more likely the market is to rise even further.

On the flip side, it benefits Lawrence to wait a bit and become the last big interior defensive lineman contract, which will likely be the largest.

With these conflicting priorities and the Giants’ tight cap situation, when and how can Joe Schoen get a deal done with Lawrence?

Does he deserve it?

Although it always behooves a team to lock up its best players, the first question is whether Lawrence is worth the extension. The answer, from the Giants’ perspective, should be a resounding yes.

It’s easy to think that Lawrence is a risk due to his breakout in a contract year. However, the sheer dominance of his season and his return in the same defensive scheme make him a good bet. A second-team All-Pro selection understates the effect that he had on the team.

Lawrence posted 7.5 sacks, 28 quarterback hits, three pass deflections, and two forced fumbles in 2022. His impact on the ball was incredible despite playing a two-gap responsibility very often, making it his priority to take on double teams and clog holes rather than make plays on the ball.

Lawrence’s 12.3% pressure rate ranked fourth among 65 qualified interior defensive linemen (min. 250 pass rushes), per Pro Football Focus. His 19.6% pressure rate in true pass sets (meaning, plays where the quarterback actually dropped straight back to pass without play-action, a screen, or other plays that mitigate pass rush) ranked third. 49% of his pressures resulted in a sack or quarterback hit, the sixth-best mark. His 19.1% pass rush win rate tied for second.

Any way you slice it, Lawrence was a dominant pass rusher in 2022. He was also no slouch in the run game, though; his 81.9 PFF run defense grade was the best among all qualified defensive tackles. It’s hard to quantify Lawrence’s run defense impact with the numbers due to his position, but he did place in the 71st percentile in run stop rate despite his aforementioned two-gapping style. He also posted seven tackles for loss.

Interior defensive line is considered a premium position in today’s NFL, as demonstrated by the booming market this offseason. While no one is Aaron Donald, the next tier of defensive tackles have made plenty of noise in critical moments. Lawrence is definitely among those.

How much?

Simmons, a two-time second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler, just received a four-year, $94 million deal with $66 million in total guarantees. Lawrence will likely be seeking a similar or slightly higher contract value.

It’s worth noting that as part of Simmons’ extension, the Titans restructured his fifth-year option. Simmons was set to make $10.753 million in guaranteed base salary in 2023, but his cap was now reduced to $6.35 million, per Over the Cap, giving the Titans $4.4 million of breathing room.

The Giants could do something similar with Lawrence, who is set to make $12.407 million on his fifth-year-option. This contract structure would convert most of the guaranteed base salary into a bonus, adding it to the total signing bonus and spreading it out over the life of the contract, which will likely be four or five years. It can give the Giants some relief in the here and now.

I don’t think we need to stray too far from Simmons’ deal to look for Lawrence’s contract structure. Perhaps he gets slightly more, just as Simmons received $4 million more in base salary and $6 million more in total guarantees than Payne.

I imagine Lawrence’s extension will be in the four-year, $95-98 million range with roughly $66-68 million guaranteed. If they structure it similarly to Simmons’, here’s what it would look like.

Dexter Lawrence Proposed Contract Extension

Year Age Base Salary Prorated Bonus Guaranteed Salary Cap Number Dead Cap
Year Age Base Salary Prorated Bonus Guaranteed Salary Cap Number Dead Cap
2023 26 $1,330,000 $5,550,000 $1,330,000 $6,880,000 $67,500,000
2024 27 $16,500,000 $5,550,000 $16,500,000 $22,050,000 $60,620,000
2025 28 $17,500,000 $5,550,000 $17,500,000 $23,050,000 $38,570,000
2026 29 $20,827,000 $5,550,000 $4,420,000 $26,377,000 $15,520,000
2027 30 $24,000,000 $5,550,000 $0 $29,550,000 $5,550,000
Totals 5 Years $80,157,000 $27,750,000 $39,750,000 $107,907,000
Fifth-Year Option: $12,407,000
Convert to Bonus: $11,077,000
Added Bonus: $16,673,000
Total Signing Bonus: $27,750,000
Prorated Bonus: $5,550,000
Total Contract Value: $107,907,000
Guaranteed Money: $67,500,000
Total Extension Value: $95,500,000

The main difference here is that Lawrence gets about $3.5 million more in total signing bonus than Simmons and $1.5 million in guarantees. I didn’t touch the “guaranteed at signing” part, since teams and players will work out the details of exactly how much money is owed on what date. I’m interested mainly in the cap ramifications of the deal.


This is one way Schoen could save some cap space to sign rookies, so maybe we see it after the draft during the rookie signing period. The voluntary portion of the offseason extends until June, so it could go on until then. However, I would assume Schoen would want to get something done before mandatory minicamp to avoid a protracted distraction.

The only reason to try to get an extension done sooner rather than later is the risk of the market resetting even higher. However, it seems that the market is hitting its peak for now, with each player going only slightly above the previous one.

I would not expect to see a deal done until mid-to-late May. The Giants have professed their lack of concern over Lawrence’s non-attendance at the voluntary offseason program. They’ll be working with him but without any particular sense of pressure until they begin to sign their rookies.

What do you think, Giants fans? Deal or no deal, and if so, when?