Shortly after the Cowboys lost to the Rams in the playoffs, there were questions about the status of Sean Lee. The veteran linebacker will be 33-years-old when next season begins and he has had his share of injuries over his time in the NFL. When an injury-prone player reaches that point in his career, he naturally has thoughts about what’s next. Given that he has now lost his starting job, there is added pressure about the future.
Lee has said that he wants to take some time to talk with his family and come to a conclusion about whether he wants to continue. After he said that, he also said that he is leaning toward coming back and he understands he’s no longer the starter.
But do the Cowboys want him back? Or more precisely, do the Cowboys want him back at his current contract with a base salary of $7 million and a $10 million cap hit in 2019? If Dallas released him it would be $3 million in dead money. With Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith eating up the bulk of the snaps, a $10 million cap hit is high.
Still, the Cowboys would like Lee to return according to Stephen Jones.
“...[there’s] no one we would love to have back more than Sean Lee. He’s special. He’s what the game is all about. We’ve had some of those special people like that over the course of time and he’s one of them.”
The Cowboys realize that they need, at minimum, three quality guys at linebacker to rotate throughout a season.
“I think over the course of the season you’re going to need three guys to man those two [linebacker] spots. Certainly, where he is in his career, I think he probably believes it’s tough for him to play all those plays game in and game out and probably could really help us in a role and we’ve just got to define what that is.
Jones went on to say that Lee was probably their best linebacker on the field in the Rams game. The Cowboys obviously love the leadership that Lee brings and he’s certainly been a mentor to both Vander Esch and Smith. As a backup, he would still have tremendous value, but probably not at his current contract.
Lee hinted that he knows he might be looking at a pay cut for a diminished role, and noted that if he did come back, he would not be coming back for money. So if Lee decides he wants to return, the Cowboys want him but they will likely be re-doing his contract to make it work.