The season finale doesn't mean anything for the Cowboys in the standings so it shouldn't be surprising to see a lot of young players being given a chance. And if you're a veteran player that is a little nicked up, it's very easy to just sit them and let another guy have a shot. After all, the more snaps these younger guys get, the more chances the coaches have to evaluate these players. The injury to Morris Claiborne has opened the door for youngsters like Deji Olatoye and Terrance Mitchell to get some playing time in recent weeks. And both have taken advantage of it as each of them has an interception over the last two games.
But then there is the tricky situation of Sean Lee. The Cowboys linebacker is having a great season as he has played in 14 games and leads the team with 128 tackles. But Lee is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. The Cowboys have nothing to gain by playing Lee and would serve better to give guys like Damien Wilson or Mark Nzeocha a shot. However, if the Cowboys sit Lee, he could end up losing out on a nice chunk of change. Lee has a clause in his contract that would pay him an extra $2 million in 2016 if he plays in 80% of the snaps this season. Lee currently meets that criteria, but if he misses the game on Sunday, he will likely fail to meet this condition.
Going into Sunday, Lee has played in 82.1 percent (812 of 989) of the Cowboys' snaps. The Cowboys defense has averaged 66 plays per game this season. If the Cowboys defense is on the field for 66 plays Sunday against the Redskins and Lee misses the game, his play-time percentage in 2015 would drop to 77 percent.
The Cowboys shouldn't be sending him out there if he is ailing in a game that has no bearing on the season. Lee's health has always been a concern so this is a risk that shouldn't be taken. But at the same time, if Lee feels good enough to go, he's going to want to be out there.
Our own Tom Ryle wonders if Lee can still get his money if the Cowboys sit him.
Just wondering: Can team go ahead and award bonus money anyway, then sit him out? Is that allowed under CBA? https://t.co/3bu2LgkhBM— Tom Ryle (@TomRyleBTB) January 1, 2016
Last year, Jeremy Mincey fell short of meeting one of his incentive bonuses and the Cowboys still found a way to reward him.
Mincey and the Cowboys came together Sunday morning to end the veteran's contract holdout. Although Mincey didn't get more years added to the end of his two-year deal that expires after the season, he did get an additional $500,000 added, pushing his base salary to $2 million. Last year, Mincey came up short on an extra $500,000 in a playing-time bonus that he missed by 11 snaps.
It makes for an interesting dilemma. Sit Lee and save money? Or find a way to reward him for a great performance?
What would you do?