Sean Lee was a great talent that had a career marred by injuries.
“But the problem is anytime I go on the field and I get to play, and you make a couple of plays, you’re like, ‘Well, I like this too much,’” Lee said before his final NFL game. “And that is my problem: I love this game too much. I love this organization a lot. And I love playing and I love playing the position, linebacker.
“I joke to my wife that I’m addicted to it at times.”
In three different seasons, Lee registered a game with 18 combined tackles, a mark no other Cowboys defender has notched, according to Pro Football Reference.
“Whenever I’m near a field, the smell brings me back to when I first started playing, pulling on a helmet, trying on those shoulder pads, that perfect tackle,” Lee wrote.
The Cowboys return starting linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch and signed Keanu Neal, a hybrid linebacker-safety who head coach Mike McCarthy says will begin with the linebacker room. Ex-Falcons coach Dan Quinn replaces Mike Nolan as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator.
Smith’s 154 tackles in 2020 more than doubled the second-most productive player on a historically bad Cowboys defense, but his consistency has declined since his 2018 career-best season. Vander Esch has been mostly productive while on the field but battled neck and spine injuries. The Cowboys have yet to decide whether to exercise his fifth-year option.
The Cowboys will need some linebacker help in the draft.
Don’t be cynical and talk about the injuries that cost the linebacker 58 games during his 11-year pro career that came to an end this week when Lee announced his retirement.
Think of how it bothered him and the hours and hours he put into avoiding injury.
Think about the type of player and the leader Lee was on and off the field.
That’s exactly what the Cowboys need in order to remake their defense under coordinator Dan Quinn.
An argument can be made the Cowboys still need Lee to help their defense even as he turns 35 in July. Linebacker Jaylon Smith is coming off a struggle of a season in 2020. Leighton Vander Esch has missed 15 games the past two seasons with injuries. If something happens to either of them, the Cowboys are looking at Luke Gifford or Francis Bernard playing significant snaps at the moment.
Perhaps linebacker should be considered the primary need entering Thursday’s draft in Cleveland (8 p.m. ET, on ESPN and the ESPN App).
While that move is unlikely to happen in the first round, it’s now a must that the Cowboys consider linebacker prospects in the draft’s subsequent rounds.
A defensive back prospect for the Cowboys that has not been talked about a lot in the upcoming draft.
Apparently, Dallas is doing some notable work on one potential defensive back prospect. This tidbit about the Cowboys doing their due diligence on Washington cornerback Elijah Molden comes from 105.3 The Fan’s Jeff Cavanaugh via his YouTube channel on Sunday.
“I’ve actually heard the Cowboys are doing work on Elijah Molden. A decent amount of work and that could be the Dan Quinn special … He would be like Damontae Kazee who Dan Quinn drafted as a cornerback out of college, made him a safety. And Elijah Molden can do that. You watch him play at Washignton when he’s playing in the slot, he’s playing like a saftey.”
At 5-foot-10, 190-pounds, Molden is seemingly undersized to be an NFL safety candidate and would seem to slot better as a slot corner. Yet, the success of the 5-foot-9, 203-pound Antoine Winfield Jr., who was a second-round selection for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year, could open the door to the Cowboys being open to the possibility.
After all, Kazee isn’t much bigger than Molden at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds. And he led the NFL in interceptions for safeties in 2018 with seven picks while also registering 82 total tackles.
Molden did play some single-high safety for the Huskies, but many covered the slot. The knocks on the young defensive back are mainly due to his lack of size and speed (a reported 4.58-second forty at his pro day), which could mean Molden better translates as a safety on the NFL level anyway.
Cowboys won’t decide on Leighton Vander Esch’s fifth-year option until after the draft - Dave Halprin, Blogging The Boys
This draft could most likely decide LVE’s fate with the Cowboys.
The deadline to make that decision is May 3rd. It looks like the Cowboys will push right up to that deadline as Stephen Jones said today that they will wait until after the draft to make a determination. That will give them a small window between the draft and the deadline to work out their options.
Linebacker is an uncertain position for the Cowboys currently. They will have Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith this year, along with the hybrid linebacker/safety Keanu Neal. One player they won’t have is Sean Lee who retired earlier today. They also lost Joe Thomas in free agency so the depth is an issue, along with the inconsistent play from both Vander Esch and Smith.
The team has a couple of young linebackers in Luke Gifford and Francis Bernard, but it is the draft that will likely sway their decision-making in regards to picking up Vander Esch’s fifth-year option. If the Cowboys land a linebacker who they think could be the future, they may be more inclined to turn down the option and see what happens next offseason. They could also still dip into the free agent market to shore up the position.
It would be kind of a missed opportunity if the Cowboys don’t keep their 19th overall pick from the 2018 draft past the first contract. Initially it appeared that they had found a budding star with Vander Esch, but injuries and inconsistency has stripped some of the luster of his fast start. Now with the draft approaching, all options are still on the table.
Cowboys Rumors: Patrick Surtain II ‘Most Connected To’ DAL Amid Kyle Pitts Buzz - Timothy Rapp, Bleacher Report
This Cowboys rumor would hardly come as a surprise to any Cowboys fan.
Albert Breer of SI.com reported he’s “heard Dallas most connected to Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II, who would be a middle-of-the-fairway pick and an ideal fit for Dan Quinn’s new defense, though I’d assume South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn would be in play too.”
ESPN’s Todd McShay added that the Cowboys could move down the board if Surtain isn’t available:
“The strongest information that I’ve heard is that Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II will be the pick at No. 10. He’d give Dallas a shutdown press corner. If Surtain is already off the board, a move back could be in play, per a different source. The Cowboys could slide back four, five or maybe even six spots and still end up with either South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn or Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley as their cornerback of choice ... and some additional picks.”
It’s no secret that Jerry and Stephen Jones think highly of Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. They have said as much.
The problem for the Cowboys is that much of the buzz heading into Thursday is that Pitts will be off the board in the first four to six picks, with the possibility that any one of the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals or Miami Dolphins could take him.
As McShay reported: “It would take a massive, massive overpay to move from No. 10 to No. 4 and make it happen. I don’t see it going that way.”
Final 7-round mock draft: Cowboys wait on secondary but solve every issue - K.D. Drummond, Cowboys Wire
Can never have enough mock drafts.
Cowboys give up the Andy Dalton comp pick to complete the deal.
3.65. Richie Grant, safety, Central Florida
Height: 6-foot Weight: 194 pounds Class: Redshirt Senior Grant shows amazing instincts as a centerfield prospect with ball skills. He’s a bit older and not as athletic as other prospects but his versatility makes him too intriguing to not go grab if he makes it this close to Dallas’ selection. He has the versatility to play in the box and as a split safety as well, making him the perfect solution to add to Donovan Wilson and Damontae Kazee.
TRADE ALERT: 3.99, 5.179 to Cleveland Browns for 3.89
3.89. Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
Height: 6-foot-1 Weight: 190 pounds Class: Senior Adebo seems like the perfect zone corner solution for the Cowboys and Dan Quinn’s Cover 3 scheme. Very good ball skills, loose hips and a strong football IQ. If Dallas doesn’t go elite prospect early, Adebo is the perfect compliment to Trevon Diggs as a Day 2 pick.
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