The interest level for the Dallas Cowboys despite being halfway through the offseason is at an all-time high with so many players about to hit free agency.
Among the players the team, Sean Lee is one of the more interesting names that will pop up for the Jones family.
Sean Lee is at the end of his contract extension he signed with the Cowboys in 2013, and as just one of 31 players ready to test free agency, Lee has a decision to make. He was asked about coaching but has reiterated that he wants to play, similar to Jason Witten’s comments regarding his future.
With the depth at the linebacker position, is a Sean Lee return smart for the Cowboys?
In 2019, Sean Lee played in 741 snaps on defense and special teams, his highest snap count since his All-Pro season in 2016 when he played in 1,046 total snaps. 2019 was his first season in his career that he played in all 16 games of a regular season, but in 2015 he opted to sit out week 17 in a disappointing year that saw the Cowboys finish 4-12. Lee, 33, has always had injury troubles, suffering anything from neck injuries to hamstring injuries throughout his career.
Lee would be an excellent rotational linebacker again for this defense that is about to learn under a new defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan, who in fact just spent time coaching up linebackers in New Orleans. Lee could, in fact, help Nolan relate and keep leadership in the locker room as Nolan will take a bit of time finding his footing with this young defense still intact, for now. If Lee were to stay, he’d still be an impact player for the time he’s on the field, being able to diagnose an offense at the line of scrimmage like the quarterback of the defense. Nolan and the Cowboys would more than likely be open to the return of Lee, for the right price though.
Lee played under a base salary of just $2M in 2019 after restructuring his contract from $7M, saving the Cowboys over $4M for the season.
Lee started in 13 games, accumulating 86 combined tackles after rising star Leighton Vander Esch suffered a neck injury himself, missing 7 games.
He eventually needed surgery for his injury in December but is expected to be ready for training camp in 2020. If Lee were to sign with the Cowboys, he’d need to agree to a lesser contract in the $3-4 million range on a one year deal.
The wild card in a possible Sean Lee return is the other outside linebacker, Joe Thomas. Thomas is also facing free agency after signing a 2-year deal in 2018 for $3.6M, playing in 23% of defensive snaps and 51% of special team snaps.
Thomas is a solid rotational player that’s just 28 years old, 6 years younger than Lee, making him slightly more attractive for a possible contract extension. If Thomas were to sign, the Cowboys would likely give him another 2-year deal worth about $10M, so both Lee and Thomas will still have some negotiating to do.
Again the question arises, is Sean Lee return smart for the Dallas Cowboys?