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Is 2018 LB Sean Lee’s Last Season with Cowboys?

Jess Haynie

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Sean Lee

After an offseason with major roster changes and a significant youth movement, one can't help but look at Linebacker Sean Lee as one of the last men standing for the older veterans. While he's certainly sticking around this year, could 2018 be Lee's last season with the Dallas Cowboys?

With Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, and Orlando Scandrick all departing over the last two months, a wave of change has hit the 2018 Dallas Cowboys. As we saw with Bryant and Scandrick, the Cowboys are willing to cut a veteran leader if the cap savings and other circumstances make it logical.

Sean Lee will be one of just three players 30 or older this season. The other two are specialists, Kicker Dan Bailey and Long Snapper L.P. Laoduceur. Those players tend to last longer than their offensive and defensive teammates.

That makes Lee the old man on campus. And as you would imagine, he carries a significant salary cap hit given his tenure and performance.

Sean's contract runs through 2019. He is set to count a little over $10 million against next season's cap. The Cowboys can save $7 million if he's released.

Head, Shoulders, Knees, And Toes: Injuries Make Sean Lee Untrustworthy?

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

A couple of months ago, I discussed why the Cowboys may not want to restructure Lee's contract to create cap space. Not only is Sean getting older, but his injury issues were back last season with five missed games.

Dallas didn't restructure, leaving themselves the leverage to handle Lee's contract next season in whatever way is best for the organization.

A year ago, I floated the idea that Dez Bryant's wasn't restructured for the same reason. Many scoffed at the notion that Bryant could be released, but we saw what happened.

From a purely financial standpoint, cutting Lee would be even easier than Dez. He would create $7 million in cap space with only a $3 million dead money penalty, whereas as Bryant's release was $8 million saved but another $8 million in dead money.

Unlike Bryant, though, Sean Lee is still performing as one of the top players at his position. He's still justifying his salary, provided his health allows him to stay on the field.

After missing all of 2014 with a knee injury, Sean returned with consistency over the next two years. He's been one the elite linebackers in the NFL, but last year was a setback.

A few weeks ago, Dallas spent their first-round pick on Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. While there was a present need for more LB talent, it also speaks to the Cowboys preparing for a future without Sean Lee.

Is 2018 LB Sean Lee's Last Season with Cowboys?

Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch

Ideally, Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith will be the team's key LB duo for years to come. While Jaylon may move to the SAM role in 2018, his ball skills are suited for the WILL role that Sean Lee plays now.

In the modern era, NFL teams often have just two linebackers on the field with nickel formations. Those will likely be Lee and Smith for most of 2018, but Vander Esch should come into the rotations at times.

If the young guys have strong seasons, it will give the Cowboys even more freedom to consider letting Sean Lee go next year. But before he can become a cap casualty, Lee will get a chance to show whether or not he's actually a liability.

It's entirely possible, if not probable, that Lee will still be the best LB on the team this season and one of the best in the league. That would give him security that Dez Bryant and Orlando Scandrick didn't have this offseason.

If Dallas want to stick with Sean Lee in 2019, they should be able to find the cap space to do it. They will have $24 million in dead money coming off the books, mostly from Tony Romo and Dez Bryant's contracts but a few others as well.

So really, Lee's future comes down to what he does on the field this season. If he's still Sean Lee, All-Pro linebacker, then he should still be a Cowboy going forward. But if age or injuries bring him down, it could easily be his last ride in Dallas.

Not that Sean needed extra motivation. One of his most endearing qualities is how he treats every game and every play like the Super Bowl is in the line.

But Lee will undoubtedly feel the pressure. He'll look around at a changed locker room, the elder statesman, and know what it could mean for his future.

Nobody can predict that future, but like with Dez Bryant last year, some of the warning signs are showing. As such, 2018 could be Sean Lee's last season as a Dallas Cowboy.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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9 Comments
  • GoNavyBeatArmy

    Dallas already has $66mil cap space available next season, not counting what they roll over from this season. They have no need to ‘create cap space’. I seriously doubt Lee will be cut next year.

  • Antón Calo

    Sean lee is the best LB mind in the entire nfl. If you see the all or nothing serie about dallas cowboys you realize he’s not just a former cowboys LB, he must be in the franchize for years to come. If he cant play anymore jones family must keep him as a LB coach or someplace else on the staff team, as they have done with QB last year (this year tony romo’s Backup QB will be Qb coach)

  • Travis Diggs

    Sean lee ain’t going nowhere but then again i didn’t think Dez was going anywhere so you never know. When he gets hurt this year we’ll see how this new look group looks without him, that will be the key in deciding his future with the team

  • elindio42

    Lee is in a completely different situation than Bryant or Scandrick. He can still play!

    I was not surprised that Dez was cut this year. He was declining in production and was becoming a large distraction and a diva.

  • Chuck Wright

    If not this year then next will be his last most likely.

    Oddly enough after going WR and LB in 2018, Dallas’ 2019 draft needs to figure on LB and WR as two need spots again. Next year I see biggest needs S, LB, WR, 1 Tech (not that the FO cares) and maybe TE

    • Antón Calo

      making next year Dallas’ 2019 draft needs with out playing this year is imposible… if the year is bad, you may have to look for another QB or new bad positions, if the year is good and the rookies made a good job, LB might not be a need if you play with only two (Jaylon an Van der each) as they did last season with a nickel formation.
      in addition, dallas have near 24k in death cap this year (tony romo, bryant, etc.), and next year none (by now).
      with that money, you can extend irving, lawrence, zack martin (the only started free agent) and may be pick up earl thomas as a free agent. Surely, new needs will appear during the season (maybe new OT if tyron smith’s injury problems continue?)

  • Hector Espindola

    NO shortcuts there, Dallas will honor Lee’s contract till it’s end, because his game hasn’t decreased and cap hell is behind. No way he leaves until FO is sure that Jaylon and LVE are their natural heirs, which, in my opinion, would not happen in the next couple of seasons. After that, and as the outstanding player and captain Lee has been, FO will offer him a last friendly season backup contract if Lee’s body is up to the task or a coaching job as retirement at 34 years old. If Jaylon and LVE want to be the best versions of themselves, they have to approach the game as Lee does. Lee is the last standard.

  • EverybodyTalks

    Lee has always had a contract that has been team friendly. Not to high, not to low…just right. They have even restructured on his contract a few times. I think he stays to play, but more importantly, to further tutor LV55. That tutoring also applies to Jaylon, especially since he will be the eventual successor on the weak side.
    Then in 2020, Lee becomes the defensive coordinator and Kris Richard becomes our new head coach.
    Garrett moves on to coach elsewhere, with his back-to-back SB rings from 2018 & 2019.

  • Michael White

    I remember reading the article about Dez and told my friends and bro that if Dez didn’t have a monstrous year he would be cut. And it happened. Sean Lee is different..he is productive and he isn’t a problem child. He is actually beneficial to the locker room..i think there will give him the Jason Whitten treatment..that is if he is healthy and productive…That being said I still look for us to draft another LB next year maybe in 2nd or 3rd round

Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys’ Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys' Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks

In every game, whether it's a sporting event or a board game there is a path -- and sometimes more than one -- to victory. For the Dallas Cowboys, it's no different. As they get set to face a Seattle Seahawks team that is 0-2 for the first time since 2015, they'll have to win in several areas to bring home the W.

After starting out 0-2 in 2015, the Seahawks finished the season with a 10-6 record and won their wild card game over the Minnesota Vikings before falling in the divisional round to the Carolina Panthers.

The Seahawks are one of those teams that you can get down, but can never count out. If the Dallas Cowboys want to come out on top in their trip to the Pacific Northwest, they are going to have to come ready to play.

In particular, these are the things that the Dallas Cowboys have to achieve to be the victors on Sunday.

Limit Big Plays

The Seattle Seahawks are a very interesting offensive case study. They have one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but have invested very little in trying to protect their most important asset.

They rely on Russell Wilson's improvisational ability and penchant for big plays.

In 2017, Wilson had a quarterback rating of 100.9 on attempts greater than 20 yards down the field, per Pro Football Focus. He threw the ball "deep" 91 times, completing 31 passes for 1,134 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. He had the most deep attempts in the league last season and tied with Alex Smith with the most touchdowns on deep attempts. Wilson's yardage was nearly 200 yards more than the next best in the NFL on deep passing.

Wilson's going to take some deep shots. If you watched the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears, you noticed that even though Wilson was getting battered, it didn't deter him from taking shots deep down the field. Sometimes into unfavorable coverages.

The secondary has an advantage over the Seattle Seahawks group of wide receivers, but they'll have to stay disciplined and not allow the big pass plays to beat them.

In a game where they were being dominated for more than three quarters, the Seahawks were able to hang around and had a chance at the end because of their penchant for big plays.

Don't get beat deep.

Wrangling Russell Wilson

The Seattle Seahawks have allowed the most sacks in the league through two weeks. They've allowed six in each of their first two games this season. The Dallas Cowboys are going to have opportunities to sack Russell Wilson this week.

They have to take advantage.

Like Cam Newton in week one, Russell Wilson is a very elusive quarterback. Not only is he really good at making plays with his legs, he can be difficult to bring down. The Dallas Cowboys will have to work to keep Wilson in the pocket and finish when they get an opportunity to bring him down. He's not a physical presence like Newton is, but he's slippery and has some of that Tony Romo elusiveness to him.

If the potential tackler doesn't get Wilson down on first contact, it could lead to big plays both through the air and on the ground. Wilson averages 33.6 yards per game on the ground in his career and 5.7 yards per attempt. In order to get off the field on third down, they're going to have to prevent Wilson from using his legs to pick up third downs.

Establishing the Pass to Set Up the Run

At this point in the Dallas Cowboys offensive approach, everyone in the world knows what the Dallas Cowboys want to do on offense. They want to run the ball.

The Dallas Cowboys did a great job using this knowledge to their advantage on the first series of the game against the New York Giants.

On the first play of the game, they used a Run-Pass Option, with a clear out to the flat by Tight End Geoff Swaim, and found Allen Hurns on a slant to set up a second and short. Then after picking up that second and short with a run by Ezekiel Elliott, they used a straight play action out of a two running back, one tight end set, and hit Tavon Austin for the 64 yard touchdown.

Dak's willingness to throw the ball deep on a couple other occasions helped open up the run. The deep ball has to be a threat in order to back defenses off the line of scrimmage and do what you do best: Run the Ball. If they aren't going to back off, then you have to keep throwing it until you hit the deep ball enough that it forces them to do so.

The Dallas Cowboys were able to run the ball pretty effectively for the rest of the game, even if they didn't hit a lot of big plays. With the New York Giants interior defensive line, it was going to be tough sledding anyway. Getting things going through the air, helped out immensely.

The Seattle Seahawks are going to try to do what everyone does; put the ball in Dak Prescott's hands. If they're going to win on Sunday, it's going to be because Prescott had another efficient game throwing the ball.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

This game sets up really well for the Dallas Cowboys to improve their record to 2-1 and keep pace with the upper tier teams in the NFC. Every win matters, but these NFC games matter even a bit more. No game in the NFL is a cakewalk and this game is no different. If the Dallas Cowboys aren't able to do the above, it could be a long day for America's Team. 



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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys May Sit Atop NFC East for a While

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Ezekiel Elliott, Lions

If there's one thing we've learned in the past, it's that NFL seasons are unpredictable. Unknown factors, injuries and unexpected "breakout" players can shift the way we saw the league just a month ago, when we were still watching preseason games on TV. After two weeks of regular season action, Cowboys Nation might be surprised to see their Dallas Cowboys sitting on top of the NFC East, but that's precisely the case. Not only that, but they could remain division leaders for a while...

Now, let's not get carried away here. While the team might be on top right now, they're not even 2-0 and it's only week 3. The Cowboys' offense played well on week 2, but terribly on week 1. It's way too early to judge how this season will go based on what we've seen.

However, there is no denying that they seem to be in a very good position to remain the NFC East front runners in the coming weeks. The Cowboys had more reasons to celebrate last Sunday besides their victory over the New York Giants. Both the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins suffered losses in their respective games, giving Dallas the opportunity to control their destiny.

As previously mentioned, though, it's only week 3. But the team's next three opponents aren't as scary as they seemed prior to the season's start. Through two weeks of the NFL season, the Cowboys' next three opponents are winless, sharing a combined record of 0-6.

Dallas Cowboys May Sit Atop NFC East for a While

 

Starting by the Seattle Seahawks, who have been a dominant team in the NFL landscape for a few years now but that simply don't seem like a very threatening opponent right now. The main reason why is their weak offensive line, which I expect the Dallas Cowboys to exploit just like they did with the Panthers and Giants. Russel Wilson is a tougher guy to contain, being one of the best playmakers in the NFL right now, but I trust the defense to handle him. They've done such a good pressuring quarterbacks, I'll trust they will continue to do so.

Next in the calendar will be the Detroit Lions. Through two weeks, they've struggled more than we expected under the reigns of their new head coach, Matt Patricia. On week 1, Matt Stafford threw four interceptions in a game that was in control of the New York Jets all night long. But it's not the Lions' offense that I think the Cowboys will take advantage of, but their poor run defense. They gave up 169 yards on rushing against the Jets on week 1 and 190 last Sunday, when they faced the San Francisco 49ers.

Ezekiel Elliott will have that defense dreaming nightmares before their matchup in week 4.

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys Vs Houston Texans: 5 Bold Predictions

Finally, on week 5, the Cowboys will face their in-state rival, the Houston Texans. Surprisingly, the Deshaun Watson-led team is 0-2 after facing the New England Patriots and the Tennessee Titans. This might be the team that hands the Cowboys their second loss of the season. They have a balanced offense that will pose no challenge for the Cowboys' defense, but this could be a dangerous game for the offense.

The Cowboys will rely on Ezekiel Elliott for this one as well. On the defensive side of the ball, Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie will have to replicate their success versus Odell Beckham, only this time they will be facing Deandre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the league.

✭✭✭

Even though the Cowboys were terrible in Carolina when they opened their season, the defense has been looking so good that I don't doubt their ability to carry the team to victories for the time being. If the offense continues to improve, then this team might be able to take full advantage of the unexpected head start it got in the NFC East.

I can't say it enough; it's only week 3... but look out. It could take some time before the Cowboys give up that #1 spot in the division.

Tell me what you think about "Dallas Cowboys May Sit Atop NFC East for a While" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Game Notes

#SEAvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Wishlist Christmas Edition: Seahawks @ Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys found a way to get their first win last Sunday, defeating the New York Giants from start to finish, 20-13.

Now at 1-1 and locked in a three way tie for 1st place in the NFC East, Dallas is looking to string together a few victories and create some early separation. Seattle is now sitting at 0-2, and while that's typically a hole teams cannot climb out of in the NFL, the Seahawks will be desperately fighting to avoid an 0-3 start.

The Seahawks opened up as 3 point home favorites against the Cowboys, with the over/under set at 44.5 points.

Dallas Cowboys

After an abysmal season opener against Carolina, the Cowboys came out firing against the Giants on Sunday night. Dallas led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, and ended up holding on as the Giants made a late garbage-time run.

Dak Prescott looked as comfortable in the pocket as he as in weeks, finding Tavon Austin for a 64 yard touchdown pass on the opening drive. Ezekiel Elliott scored another rushing touchdown, and the Cowboys defense was straight up dominant.

Now, the Cowboys defensive line has another chance to increase their sack total against the Seahawks' weak offensive line. And you know DeMarcus Lawrence is salivating.

Dallas improved to 1-1 straight up and against the spread, covering the 3 point spread set by Vegas a week ago. Both Cowboys games have gone under thus far as well.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks fell to 0-2 on Monday night with a tough road loss to the Chicago Bears. Khalil Mack dominated the Seahawks offensive line, dictating protections and keeping Russell Wilson uncomfortable all night long.

The Seahawks haven't been able to get much of a run game going this season, despite their insistence upon doing so. Russell Wilson is their offense, and if the Cowboys can pressure him and force him into hero-ball throws, they should have success on Sunday. After all, this was the Bears recipe for success on Monday night.

Seattle is 0-2 straight up and 0-1-1 against the spread this season.

Trends

  • The score total has gone under 5 straight Cowboys' games.
  • Dallas is 2-4 against the spread their last six times playing at Seattle.
  • Seattle is 1-5 against the spread their last six games at home.
  • The under has hit 4 of the last 5 Cowboys/Seahawks games.

Prediction

While I've thought hard about picking the under for the third straight week (I'm 2-0 doing so), I'll pick the actual game for you guys this time. I think the Cowboys will get this road win and improve to 2-1 behind dominant defensive line play and a strong running game.

This match up favors Dallas in multiple ways and I expect them to take advantage of Seattle's weak spots.

I like the Cowboys +3 a lot this Sunday.



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