Should Cowboys lock up Tyrone Crawford now or later?

IRVING, Texas – In an ESPN Insider piece last week, Field Yates listed the biggest roster decision for each team and not surprisingly he mentioned getting Dez Bryant signed to a long-term deal for the Dallas Cowboys.

But I would take exception to the description of the talks between the Cowboys and Bryant as “extensive” and “continuous.” They haven’t been that extensive at all since Bryant changed agents last offseason.

Last week Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said he expects the team will make a push to get Bryant to sign a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline. I’ll be interested to see how hard the Cowboys push.

They haven’t really shown much of an inclination to get a deal done after believing they were close to a deal last year. They have Bryant budgeted at $12.823 million with the franchise tag this year. While they would like Bryant signed past 2015, they don’t need to do a deal with Bryant to gain cap space. In a way, it can wait.

But it got me to thinking about the future of some other Cowboys, specifically Tyrone Crawford.

The under tackle in Rod Marinelli’s defense is the engine. Crawford moved there last season and excelled. He finished with just three sacks but he had 29 quarterback pressures and four tackles for loss as he learned on the fly.

He spent last offseason playing defensive end but moved to tackle when the Cowboys wanted to keep Henry Melton in a reserve role.

Crawford is set to make $675,000 in the final year of his rookie contract and will be a free agent after this season. The Cowboys have a long history of doing long-term deals with players they believe to be cornerstone parts of their team with Sean Lee and Tyron Smith the most-recent examples. They want to add Bryant to that list as well, but appear patient at the moment.

Crawford is not necessarily a projection, but he has played only two seasons. He missed 2013 with a torn Achilles. In order to get him to sign an extension and take himself off what will be his best chance of hitting the open market next winter, the Cowboys will have to offer big money but not so big that it swells the curve for future deals.

Crawford’s three sacks last year are the only three of his career. He hasn’t proven himself to the level Lee, Smith and Bryant have, but he is the type of bet-on-the-come move Jerry Jones has made with players such as Barry Church and, to a degree, Orlando Scandrick.

Getting to that number could prove tricky, but as a former third-round pick, Crawford might have to decide whether to make great money now is worth passing only possible super money later if he has the type of 2015 season the Cowboys expect.