The Cowboys remain in discussions with longtime linebacker Sean Lee, according to head coach Mike McCarthy (via Jon Machota of The Athletic). The 34-year-old is a candidate to retire, but he is apparently interested in a 12th season in Dallas.
The oft-injured ‘backer is long removed from his days as an elite defender, but he could still be useful in a rotational role. Though he played in just nine games in 2020, he played in all 16 contests in 2019 (including 13 starts) and ended that season on a high note. He tallied double-digit tackles in two of his final five games in 2019 and finished out with 86 stops, a sack, an interception, and four passes defensed, leading to a one-year, $4.5MM re-up last offseason.
But sports hernia surgery delayed Lee’s 2020 debut until Week 8, and he wound up recording just 20 tackles while playing in 16% of the Cowboys’ defensive snaps (both career lows outside of the 2014 season, which was wiped out completely due to an ACL tear). If he were to return, it would likely be for much less than his $4.5MM 2020 salary, and he would be the fourth LB on the depth chart behind Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, and free agent acquisition Keanu Neal. The Cowboys, though, should have a real chance to win the NFC East in 2021, and Lee may want to sign up for one more chance at a deep postseason run.
In related news, McCarthy pushed back on a recent report indicating the Cowboys have informed Aldon Smith that he won’t be retained. One of 2020’s best comeback stories, Smith is not a great fit in the 4-3 scheme that Dallas will run under new DC Dan Quinn, so the report didn’t come as much of a surprise. Still, McCarthy said the team remains in contact with the 31-year-old pass rusher.
“That’s still fluid,” McCarthy said. “I personally haven’t moved on. I was in a conversation yesterday about Aldon, so we’ll see how that works out moving forward. … We’re still talking there.”
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