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Dexter Lawrence signs contract extension with Giants


EAST RUTHRFORD, N.J. – Dexter Lawrence was a good but not great player in the first three seasons after the Giants selected him 17th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. He missed only one game and averaged 3.0 sacks, 10 quarterback hits and was a solid run defender. But the defensive lineman from Clemson expected much more of himself.

He yearned to significantly improve in 2022. So, before training camp began last summer, Lawrence gave himself a pep talk.

"I told myself to embrace the lights," he said. "I wouldn't say I shied away from it before, but I didn't fully embrace it. That helped me build the confidence to continue to be consistent and continue to know what it takes to be consistent and be productive and be disruptive."

View photos of defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence's career with the Giants.

He was all that and more in a breakout season. Lawrence was selected to the Pro Bowl and named second-team all-pro as he finished with career bests in tackles (68), solo stops (35), as well as team-best totals in sacks (7.5), tackles for loss (7, tied with Jihad Ward) and quarterback hits (28). Lawrence was the first Giants defensive lineman to be selected to the Pro Bowl since end Jason Pierre-Paul in 2012, and the first interior lineman to go since nose tackle Erik Howard in 1990. He was one of the very best players on team that finished 9-7-1 and won a playoff game.

The Giants rewarded him with a lucrative four-year contract extension that Lawrence said gives him "the opportunity to change my kids' kids' lives, and I'm happy about that."

Lawrence said the negotiations "went smoothly," largely because each side had a strong desire to stay connected.

"Through the whole process, I was like, 'I want to play here, I want to be a Giant,'" Lawrence said. "We have something going here, we're building something special, and you can see it from the outside and inside it's even more beautiful. I'm excited for what's going on. The whole process I was in communication like this is where I want to be, and we got it done."

Lawrence has not participated in the Giants' voluntary offseason conditioning program and instead has been training in Florida. He flew to New Jersey this morning to sign his contract and then walked out to the practice fields where the rookie minicamps were being held and greeted coach Brian Daboll, general manager Joe Schoen and several other team officials. The veterans will return to work Monday, but it's unclear when Lawrence will join them.

"I'll be back with my guys," he said. "I'm excited. There's still stuff I've got to take care of. I've been in constant communication with the coaches. It's voluntary, so we'll talk about it."

Daboll will be pleased when Lawrence arrives.

"I've talked to Dex," he said. "I've talked to him before, I talked to him yesterday and talked to him today. Obviously, he's excited and we're happy to have him."

Lawrence spread around the cheer when he spoke to the media this morning but was particularly enthused when he discussed defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and his scheme. Martindale had Martindale play more at nose tackle last season, a shift that unleased Lawrence's dominance. Lawrence had at least one quarterback hit in every game but one, with a high of five in a victory against Houston. He had 4.0 sacks in a three-game stretch from Oct. 2-16.

"I'm a disrupter," he said. "I think it was just the team that they built around, having guys like Azeez (Ojulari) when he was showing up, Tibs (Kayvon Thibodeaux), Leo (Leonard Williams), Jelly (Justin Ellis), guys like that, and then the coaches helping you create that confidence, continuing to help you master your craft. I think it was a whole totality of that, other than my position change.

"I think I just learned my craft better and mastered it a little more. I still have work to do, but I think that was just the confidence I built from that helped me be as productive as I was."

When did Lawrence know he was becoming the player he knew he was capable of being?

"Probably during (training) camp," he said. "Making plays in camp, not making the same mistakes, trying something new and correcting it and not making that mistake again. It was a step-by-step thing with me. It started with hands and my feet and my long arms and my snatch – the process of those things coming along.

"(During the season) I felt on a weekly basis I was improving in one thing and then the next thing. It all started flowing together."

Lawrence is the first to admit he was far from perfect.

"I did miss a lot of plays," he said. "The coaches will tell you and I like when they tell me stuff like that. I respect that."

Lawrence also spoke about the plays he could have made but didn't when asked if he believes he ranks among the NFL's greatest defensive tackles.

"I feel like I'm definitely up there," he said. "I have a lot more to go. I missed a lot of plays last year that I know I can get. Right now, it's just continuing to master my craft and finishing plays that I could have made last year. Comparing myself between everybody, I'm not really that type of guy, I just know my standard for myself, and I know what I can do and what I can produce."

Now comfortably established as a premier defensive lineman, Lawrence has some very lofty goals.

"My ultimate goal is to be legendary, to be a Hall of Famer," he said. "I got drafted. That's one step. Okay, let's have a good rookie year. Let's not make the same mistakes the next year. Let's keep building until you get to where you're at, and I'm not where I'm at now, where I want to be. I think it's just a constant growth, as a person honestly and then as a player."

Where does he want to be?

"I want to be a Hall of Famer," he said.

The Giants will be thrilled if he plays like one.


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