There's been much speculation since the end of the 2020 season about the future of Sean Lee. He immediately expressed after the Dallas Cowboys Week 17 loss to the New York Giants that he still loved the game, and even as recently as February he was mulling over whether or not he should continue playing.
After much consideration, Lee has come to a decision. After 11 seasons, he is hanging up the cleats and entering retirement, according to ESPN's Todd Archer.
After 11 seasons with the Cowboys, linebacker Sean Lee tells ESPN he is retiring. Injuries marked his career, but he was a two-time Pro Bowler and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2016 and the unquestioned leader of the defense.https://t.co/DOICS1iVqq
Lee came into the Cowboys organization as a second-round pick out of Penn State in 2010. Nagging injuries only allowed him to register one season over 100 tackles through 2013 (had 104 in 2011). After he missed the entire 2014 season with a torn ACL, Lee had the best stretch of his career. From 2015 to 2017, Lee was selected to two Pro Bowls and received All-Pro honors (2016), and established himself as one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
The last three seasons have been a nightmare for Lee. In 2018, multiple hamstring injuries forced him to miss nine games and he totaled a pedestrian 30 tackles. He played in all 16 games for the first time in 2019 and racked up almost 90 tackles, but that momentum was short-lived. Last season, he underwent sports hernia surgery which kept him on the sidelines for the Cowboy's first seven games. He would finish with a career-low 20 tackles.
Lee's career is a tale of what could have been. When healthy, he was one of the better linebackers of his time, but far too often he was a spectator and not in uniform. Nonetheless, he's left a legacy of hard work and perseverance after continuously having to battle back from injuries. That determination could lead to a position with the Cowboys coaching staff in the future where his experience and knowledge of the game would be a welcomed addition.
“It's been a complete honor,” Lee told ESPN. “I've been blessed to play for the incredible Jones family, with such great coaches and teammates that I love like brothers. I loved every minute playing and tried to pour my heart and soul into winning and helping my teammates at all costs.
“To say the injuries were frustrating would be an understatement, but the support I received through them all was humbling and the lessons I learned battling adversity will last a lifetime. There are always regrets, but I'm proud of what I was able to accomplish and I leave this game grateful.”
Lee finishes his career with 802 tackles, four sacks, 14 interceptions, 30 pass breakups, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and two defensive touchdowns in 118 games played.
As Lee rides off into the sunset, the Cowboys should target a linebacker at some point in this week's NFL Draft.