Sean Lee

NFC East Notes: Ertz, Giants, Cowboys

Zach Ertz‘s high ankle sprain may well have prevented a big trade. Prior to Ertz’s injury, the Eagles were willing to part with the eighth-year tight end before the Nov. 3 deadline, multiple NFL executives informed ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (video link). The Eagles view Dallas Goedert as a long-term cornerstone, a position Ertz previously held in Philly, and the older of the team’s two prominent tight ends became embroiled in a contract dispute with the team during camp. Ertz sought a deal in the George KittleTravis Kelce neighborhood ($14MM-plus per year) and openly questioned whether the Eagles wanted him around. Ertz’s current contract — a four-year, $42MM pact — expires after the 2021 season. He will be on IR beyond the trade deadline.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • Although Joe Judge was interestingly noncommittal about Andrew Thomas‘ status earlier this week, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that the No. 4 overall pick is in good standing with the Giants and will start at left tackle Thursday night. The Giants used third-round rookie Matt Peart as their left tackle starter against Washington, making the change because Thomas violated a team rule. Thomas played just 22 snaps in Big Blue’s win. Through six games, Pro Football Focus slots Thomas 61st among tackles — behind three tackles that were taken after him in this year’s first round.
  • The Eagles will continue to incorporate Jalen Hurts into their offense. Doug Pederson said this week using Hurts in a Wildcat-type capacity is something the Eagles are “definitely going to continue to explore each week,” via Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94 WIP. The second-round rookie has played 19 snaps this season, including a career-high seven last week. Hurts has completed one pass but is averaging 7.0 yards per carry on seven attempts.
  • It is quite possible the Washington Football Team‘s mascot-less existence will continue into 2021. “There’s a pretty good chance we will be the Washington Football Team next season,” team president Jason Wright said (via John Keim of ESPN.com). The franchise made the change in mid-July.
  • Key defensive personnel could return for the Cowboys this week. Sean Lee and Chidobe Awuzie returned to practice and could be activated ahead of Saturday’s deadline. Both players went on IR after Week 1. Lee’s return from a sports hernia issue would follow Leighton Vander Esch into Dallas’ lineup, giving the embattled defense its full set of first-string linebackers. Awuzie is attempting to come back from a hamstring malady.
  • The Giants worked out a familiar player Thursday. They brought former first-round pick Corey Coleman back for an audition/checkup. The Giants re-signed Coleman in March but cut him ahead of the regular season. Coleman tore an ACL during the team’s 2019 training camp and has not played since.

NFC Notes: Hunter, Ertz, Godwin, Lee, Packers

When Danielle Hunter signed his Vikings extension in the summer of 2018 — a five-year, $72MM pact — most viewed it as a team-friendly agreement. With Khalil Mack soon raising the edge rusher price ceiling to $23.5MM per year, Hunter’s contract quickly became a bargain for the Vikings. On average, Hunter’s $14.4MM-per-year price now ranks 17th among edge defenders. Zero-time Pro Bowlers like Dante Fowler and Arik Armstead signed for more than Hunter makes this offseason. Perhaps unsurprisingly, whispers have emerged that the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end is unhappy with his contract, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes (Insider link). Hunter has three 12-plus-sack seasons and has recorded 14.5 in each of the past two. While Fowler expects the Vikings to address the issue at some point, they have him under team control through 2023. The 25-year-old defensive end is currently on Minnesota’s IR list.

Here is the latest from the NFC, shifting first to another contract issue:

  • Zach Ertz‘s Eagles situation certainly became one to monitor, with the Pro Bowl tight end voicing his frustrations about his future with the franchise and reportedly engaging in a heated discussion with GM Howie Roseman. The changing tight end marketplace, as could be expected, has impacted Ertz’s extension discussions. The deals the 49ers and Chiefs respectively gave George Kittle and Travis Kelce complicated the Eagles’ Ertz talks, forcing them to stall, Fowler adds. Ertz is under contract through 2021, but his $8.5MM-per-year deal is now well out of step with the top of the market. Kelce and Kittle recently signed for more than $14MM annually.
  • Sean Lee‘s latest injury moved him to the Cowboys‘ IR list, and he may be there for a while. Teams can move players from IR back to active rosters after three weeks this season, but the sports hernia surgery the injury-prone linebacker underwent is expected to shelve him for at least six weeks, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes. The Cowboys are down Lee and Leighton Vander Esch, after what turned out to be a rough opening week for the team. Vander Esch, whom Lee replaced in a three-down role alongside Jaylon Smith late last season, is expected to miss more than six weeks as well. Joe Thomas is set to team with Smith as a three-down player against the Falcons.
  • The Buccaneers have downgraded Chris Godwin from doubtful to out for their Week 2 game against the Panthers. Godwin developed concussion-like symptoms midweek and remains in the team’s protocol.
  • A groin injury Kenny Clark suffered in Week 1 will sideline him for the Packers‘ Week 2 tilt against the Lions. Clark left last week’s game, leaving Green Bay without its top defensive lineman for the time being.

Cowboys To Place T La’el Collins On IR

The Cowboys will begin the season without starting right tackle La’el Collins. They will place the veteran blocker on IR, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes.

However, the Cowboys did carry Collins over to their active roster after the 3pm cutdown deadline. And because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Collins will not have to miss the usually mandatory eight games. He will be eligible to return after three this season.

Both Collins and Sean Lee appear on Dallas’ active roster, but Lee will also begin the season on this new temporary IR. Collins is battling a hip injury.

The former LSU standout has become one of the NFL’s better right tackles, doing so after making a mid-career move from the guard spot. The Cowboys lost swing tackle Cameron Fleming to the Giants in free agency but signed former Browns and Chiefs backup/spot starter Cameron Erving this offseason.

Cowboys To Place Sean Lee On IR

The Cowboys will place linebacker Sean Lee on injured reserve to start the year, according to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are expected to park at least a few more players on IR thanks to a slew of training camp injuries.

This is, unfortunately, familiar territory for Lee. The veteran saw his 2014 season completely wiped out by a torn ACL tear and played in just 18 total games between 2017 and 2018. Still, the Cowboys know what he’s capable of doing when healthy, having employed him since 2010.

Lee did manage to stay on the field for much of 2019 and he closed out the year on a high note. After tallying double-digit tackles in two of his final five games, including a 17-stop showing in their Week 16 game against the Eagles, the Cowboys re-upped him on a one-year, $4.5MM deal. All in all, Lee finished out with 86 stops, one interception, one sack, and four passes defensed as he filled in for Leighton Vander Esch.

Gehlken adds that cornerback Jourdan Lewis is also likely to land on IR with a left ankle injury. Among the other banged up Cowboys: wide receivers Amari Cooper and Ventell Bryant, linebacker Luke Gifford, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, safety Xavier Woods, and right tackle La’el Collins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Bridgewater, Panthers, Vaitai, Lions, Byrd, Patriots, Brees, Saints

The latest notes on all of the contracts being handed out around the league:

  • QB Teddy Bridgewater, Panthers: signed. Bridgewater got a three-year deal worth $63MM and a whopping $40MM of that is guaranteed in the first two years, according to David Newton of ESPN.com. He got a $15MM signing bonus to take over for the start of the Matt Rhule era. Newton’s post has the full breakdown on how it’ll be paid out with various workout and roster bonuses.
  • OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Lions: signed. Vaitai’s five-year, $50MM contract includes $20MM guaranteed which will come in the first two years of the deal, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL Radio tweets. Detroit can get out of the pact after that.
  • WR Damiere ByrdPatriots: signed. Byrd’s one-year deal can be worth up to $2.5MM, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network notes in a tweet.
  • QB Drew Brees, Saints: re-signed. Brees’ two-year, $50MM new deal with New Orleans includes a signing bonus of $23MM and a small base salary of only $2MM in year one, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. That structure as well as two voidable years added on for 2022-2023 help keep his 2020 cap hit very low so the Saints can spend more as they gear up for one more Super Bowl with Brees under center.
  • LB Sean Lee, Cowboys: re-signed. Lee is back for one more ride on a one-year, $4.5MM deal with $2MM guaranteed. He actually could earn up to $6.5MM if he hits some playing time incentives, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, although he writes they’re “not-likely-to-be-earned.”
  • S Darian Thompson, Cowboys: re-signed. Thompson is getting a two-year deal worth $2.5MM, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. He’s getting a $200K signing bonus and can earn an extra $250K with playing time escalators.
  • WR Cody Core, Giants: re-signed. New York locked up the special teams ace who barely plays on offense, and he got paid handsomely. Core will be getting $4MM over a two-year deal, Wilson tweets. Only $1MM of it is guaranteed however.
  • S Jordan PoyerBills: extension. The full details are in on Poyer’s new pact. Poyer had two new years added on and will now make $22.7MM over the next three years with $13MM of that being guaranteed, Wilson tweets. He also got a $3MM signing bonus. In a separate tweet, Wilson notes that Poyer has an annual $500K interception incentive he can earn.

Cowboys To Bring Back Sean Lee

Despite the Cowboys bringing in a new coaching regime for the first time in 10 years, they will bring back one of the team’s leaders. Sean Lee and the Cowboys have agreed on a deal that will keep the linebacker in Dallas for an 11th season, according to Lee’s agent (Twitter link).

Lee will earn $4.5MM on a one-year deal, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). The longtime Cowboy cog will receive $2MM in full guarantees. This will be Lee’s age-34 season.

In February, Lee vowed not to retire. But the Cowboys at that point had not yet decided to bring him back. They have now, and Lee will return to his post as the veteran in Dallas’ linebacking corps.

While Lee himself has been injury-prone during his Cowboys tenure, he played a key role last season after Leighton Vander Esch‘s season-ending setback. Lee started 13 games and worked in a three-down role with Jaylon Smith. He made 86 tackles in Dallas’ disappointing 2019 season. Vander Esch is expected to be ready by training camp, but Lee will be back in uniform as a high-profile insurance policy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys’ Sean Lee To Play In 2020

Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee will play in 2020, agent Mike McCartney tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The only question that remains is where the 33-year-old (34 in July) will play. 

Lee is scheduled for free agency in March and the Cowboys have yet to decide whether they want to bring the veteran back for another season. First, they’ll have to address other priorities, including a potential extension for star quarterback Dak Prescott. McCartney says that Lee intends on exploring his options on the open market, though we wouldn’t be surprised to see the two sides reach a deal in the coming weeks.

Lee has spent his entire pro career in Dallas. A second-round pick in 2010, Lee cracked the starting lineup in 2011 and notched 104 total tackles. In 2013, he came away with four interceptions and ran them the other way for a league-high 174 yards. Still, injuries have hampered him throughout the years. Out of 160 possible regular season games, Lee has played in just 109 contests. That includes a 2014 season that was completely wiped out by a torn ACL and the trying 2017 and 2018 seasons which saw just 18 combined appearances.

Late last year, Lee left the Cowboys with a solid impression – he tallied double-digit tackles in two of his final five games, including a 17-stop showing in their Week 16 game against the Eagles. Still, after the Cowboys dropped four of their final six, they’re taking a hard look at every position on the roster.

In 2019, Lee finished out with 86 stops, one interception, one sack, and four passes defensed. It also marked the first ever complete 16-game slate of his career.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Dak Prescott, Cowboys FAs

We heard earlier this week that negotiations between the Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott could ultimately lead to a franchise tag. However, Stephen Jones clarified that the organization is still focused on completing a long-term deal before Prescott hits unrestricted free agency in March.

“We want to get this done,” Jones told Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Dallas Star-Telegram. “Things are fixing to heat up. We want to put every foot forward and try to grind this out and get a deal done.

“I know he wants to get his contract in the rear view mirror and we want it too. We want him to be treated well, financially and respectfully. We are going to have a real urgency to get this done.”

There’s been optimism surrounding an extension for months, but the report from earlier this week cautioned that a deal wasn’t imminent. We heard back in January that the two sides were close to an agreement, with the Cowboys reportedly willing to give Prescott a contract worth $33MM per season. Hill Jr. notes that the quarterback is seeking a deal that would jump Russell Wilson‘s league-leading $35MM AAV.

“I don’t want to get into the details, but we have offered him significant money,” Jones said. “The money we have offered Dak no matter how you look at it would put him as a top five quarterback in the NFL. That is the way we feel about him. He is one of the best.”

Jones added that the team’s priority is signing their franchise quarterback, and they haven’t discussed contracts with any of their other free agents, including wideout Amari Cooper and pass-rusher Robert Quinn. Hill Jr. tweets that the organization also hasn’t decided whether they’ll bring back tight end Jason Witten or linebacker Sean Lee. We learned this morning that Lee wasn’t going to retire.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys LB Sean Lee Won’t Retire

Linebacker Sean Lee just completed his 10th NFL season, but the veteran has no plans to hang up his cleats. Lee told SI.com’s Mike Fisher that he’s uncertain if he’ll land back in Dallas, but he made it clear that he won’t be retiring.

“I have not explored that yet,” Lee said. “I’m focusing on playing as of now.”

When asked about his future with the Cowboys and new head coach Mike McCarthy, the 33-year-old couldn’t commit.

“I’m still deciding,” Lee said. “I’m waiting to kind of explore what some of my options are…I love it in Dallas and I love the Cowboys. I hope it works out, for sure.”

Despite the 2019 campaign being his 10th season in the league (and his ninth healthy season), the veteran managed to appear in a career-high 16 games (to go along with 13 starts). Lee finished the campaign having compiled 86 tackles (the fifth time he’s had at least 80 tackles), one sack, four passes defended, and one interception.

The 2010 second-round pick has spent his entire career in Dallas, and he’s set to hit free agency for the first time since the 2013 offseason. Lee has battled a number of injuries throughout his career, and he’s flirted with retirement in the past. Based on his comments, it sounds like the linebacker is committed to returning for at least one more season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dez Bryant Wants To Return To Cowboys

Could Dez Bryant reunite with the Cowboys? Cowboys VP Stephen Jones says the wide receiver has reached out to him and he’s not ruling out the possibility of signing the veteran.

He has texted me that he would like to come back,” Jones said (via Clarence Hill of the Star Telegram). “We have nothing but great respect for Dez and what he accomplished here. Certainly, as we look forward into the future we look at all opportunities and all potential players that could maybe help us out.”

There haven’t been advanced discussions regarding Bryant just yet, however. Jones explained that he has only started discussing personnel with head coach Mike McCarthy. The two haven’t made determinations on their own free agents either, so Jones says nothing has been decided regarding tight end Jason Witten or linebacker Sean Lee.

Bryant spent eight years with the Cowboys, racking up 531 catches, nearly 7,500 yards, and a franchise-high 73 receiving touchdowns. His run included three straight seasons of at least 88 grabs, 1,200 yards, and 12 touchdowns. During that window from 2012-2014, Bryant was one of the league’s best receivers, and the Cowboys gave him a lucrative contract to reflect his production.

Of course, things didn’t end too well for Bryant and the Cowboys. In his last three seasons with Dallas, Bryant failed to top 900 yards. Then, the Cowboys dropped him in April of 2018, which put him on the curb after most of the NFL’s available free agent dollars had been allocated. Midway through the ’18 season, Bryant hooked on with the Saints. He never suited up for them, however, thanks to an Achilles tear in practice. Last year, Bryant was away from the NFL and training for an eventual return.

Bryant, a three-time Pro Bowler, will turn 32 in November.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.