Sean Lee

Cowboys’ Sean Lee Leaning Towards Return

After several injury-plagued seasons in the NFL, no one would fault Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee if he were to call it a career. However, at this time, Lee says that he’s leaning towards a return in 2019 (via David Moore of the Dallas News). 

I want to continue to play the game, but I have to evaluate physically where I’m at. I definitely have some decisions to make,” Lee said. “I’m leaning toward playing for sure.”

Staying on the field has long been an issue for Lee. Thanks to hamstring injuries, Lee appeared in only seven games in 2018 and was eventually eclipsed by rookie Leighton Vander Esch. The veteran finished out with a career-low 37 tackles and had just half a sack.

Lee was sensational for the Cowboys earlier in his career and still provides veteran leadership to the defense, so it won’t be an easy call for the team. Lee managed four interceptions in both the 2011 and 2013 seasons. He missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL, but bounced back to earn a Pro Bowl nod in 2015 and had a Pro Bowl/First-Team All-Pro season in 2016.

Lee, 33 in July, is under contract for one more season at a $10.075MM cap figure. The Cowboys can save $7MM by releasing him against just $3.075MM in dead money.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Brady, Flores, Cowboys

The knee injury that Patriots QB Tom Brady has been battling this season is an MCL sprain, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, who reports that Brady sustained the injury when going out for a pass against Tennessee on November 11. However, Brady has no structural damage, and Rapoport says the 41-year-old will head into today’s playoff game as healthy as he has been since the start of the season. He will likely not require any offseason procedures.

Let’s round up a few more east-related rumors:

  • The Dolphins are simply waiting for the Patriots‘ season to end so that they can finalize a deal with New England de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores to become their next head coach, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. No one anticipates this turning into another Josh McDaniels situation, and Flores is fully expected to join Miami. Schefter also says that Miami is already planning its rebuild and is looking to the 2020 crop of rookie QBs, which is expected to include Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
  • Albert Breer of SI.com names Patriots defensive line coach Brendan Daly as a potential replacement for Flores on New England’s staff, while Mike Reiss of ESPN.com sees former Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano — who was rumored to be a candidate for the Pats’ DC job last year following Matt Patricia‘s departure — as a logical choice. Rapoport (video link) agrees with Reiss.
  • Dolphins LB coach Frank Bush is expected to follow Adam Gase to the Jets, and while DL coach Kris Kocurek may do the same, Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio says that four to five teams are interested in Kocurek’s services (all Twitter links).
  • Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, whom the Jets reportedly preferred to Gase, confirms that he did not join Gang Green because the team wanted to pick his staff for him. Per Jake Nisse of the New York Post, Rhule said, “[a]t the end of the day, I’m never going to be in an arranged marriage.” 
  • Longtime Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is technically under contract through 2019, but the club could save $7MM against the cap by cutting him, and given the emergence of quality younger options and Lee’s injury history, it is difficult to imagine that Dallas will bring him back under his current deal. Lee, of course, could retire, and Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News says that the 32-year-old will sit down with his family and make a decision on his football future, though Lee did not provide a timeline for that decision.
  • After the Cowboys‘ playoff loss to the Rams last night, which saw defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli‘s unit get thrashed, Marinelli was unwilling to address speculation that he could step into an advisory role while Kris Richard takes over as DC. Per Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News, Marinelli said, “[w]hy do people keep asking me the same question? I can’t figure it out? Can somebody tell me why everybody asks me that?”

NFC Notes: Lauletta, Lee, Cards, Koetter

We learned earlier today that Eli Manning is increasingly likely to remain with the Giants in 2019, and the fact that New York does not presently have a legitimate replacement on its roster is a big reason for that. Indeed, although the team selected Kyle Lauletta in the 2018 draft and repeatedly indicated it wanted to give him some game action this year, Lauletta’s first appearance in a regular season NFL game — during garbage time in last week’s blowout win over the Redskins — did not go well. Lauletta has now been demoted to the team’s No. 3 QB, where he spent most of the season, and he is inactive for the club’s game today. As Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com suggests, that move speaks volumes about where Lauletta is in his development.

Let’s round up a few more NFC items as the Week 15 early afternoon games get underway:

  • Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is active today for the first time since November 5 and will play a reserve role behind rookie phenomenon Leighton Vander Esch, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Lee still provides value when healthy, but Jane Slater of the NFL Network tweets that Lee told the team he did not want to start and interfere with Vander Esch’s progress. It remains to be seen how Lee will be deployed moving forward.
  • At the beginning of this month, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network said the Cardinals were going to reassess their front office and coaching staff at the end of the season, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reaffirms that report today. JLC writes that Arizona is mulling sweeping changes, and some sources say it would be a “major surprise” if first-year head coach Steve Wilks keeps his job. The bigger question, according to those sources, is whether GM Steve Keim is retained, but if he is not, he is a strong candidate to join the Raiders‘ front office.
  • The Buccaneers are expected to move on from head coach Dirk Koetter at the end of the season, but La Canfora writes that Koetter is still highly-respected as an offensive coordinator and plenty of teams with OC vacancies this offseason will be pursuing him to fill that role. Koetter’s own OC in Tampa, Todd Monken, will also be a highly-coveted offensive coordinator candidate in 2019 assuming the Bucs cut ties with him.
  • The Eagles remain committed to Carson Wentz, and Nick Foles is expected to hit free agency in 2019.
  • Jay Gruden‘s future with the Redskins is uncertain, but Alex Smith is out of the hospital and there is optimism that he will be able to resume his playing career.

NFC East Rumors: Redskins, Cowboys, Eagles

Redskins quarterback Alex Smith is currently battling a leg infection in his broken fibula and tibia, but he’s still optimistic about resuming his playing career, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Doctors are removing tissue to clear the infection, but the issue remains extremely serious. Smith’s broken bone punctured his skin, which can result in increased likelihood of infection even though Smith underwent immediate surgery. Washington is now down to its third quarterback of the season in Mark Sanchez, as No. 2 Colt McCoy is also done for the year after suffering a fractured fibula of his own.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

  • Although Sean Lee himself has indicated he’ll be ready to play on Sunday, the Cowboys may hold out the veteran linebacker until Week 15, per Rapoport (Twitter link). When he does return, Dallas will need to decide how to divvy up its snaps in the second level of its defense. Lee, of course, is a superstar when on the field, but Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith are both immensely capable, as well. Pro Football Focus grades both Vander Esch and Smith as top-seven linebackers league-wide, and Vander Esch is in consideration for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Given that NFL clubs are using nickel (two-linebacker) packages on more than two-thirds of plays, one of the Cowboys’ ‘backers will have to take a back seat.
  • Although he’s now the Redskinsbackup quarterback, Josh Johnson still intends to play for the Alliance of American Football’s San Diego Fleet in spring 2019, tweets Rapoport. Johnson was protected as the first overall pick in a recent AAF draft, and he’ll suit up when the league begins its season next year. One of several quarterbacks — including Landry Jones and Ryan Mallett — who worked out for Washington after Smith went down, Johnson had the edge given his history with head coach Jay Gruden. He’s the only signal-caller behind Sanchez on the Redskins’ depth chart.
  • The Eagles‘ offensive struggles shouldn’t be blamed on offensive coordinator Mike Groh, argues Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Groh, notably, doesn’t call the plays in Philadelphia, as head coach Doug Pederson holds those duties. The Eagles suffered a major brain drain this offseason, losing both ex-OC Frank Reich to the Colts and ex-QBs coach John DeFilippo to the Vikings, and now rank just 20th in offensive DVOA after finishing eighth a season ago.

Cowboys’ Sean Lee To Miss Several Games

On Tuesday, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett told reporters that linebacker Sean Lee will be sidelined for “a little bit” with a hamstring injury. As it turns out, a “little bit” could turn out to be a long while. Lee’s injury is expected to keep him off the field until December and could push his return into the final weeks of the regular season, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News hears.

Lee is expected to miss the next four to six weeks of action, which means that he will be out until Dec. 9 against the Eagles, at best. At worst, that timeline would keep him out of action until the Bucs game on Dec. 23, the second-to-last game of the regular season.

Lee suffered his injury in the third quarter against the Titans on Monday night while chasing tight end Jonnu Smith on a completed pass. Lee also missed three games earlier this year, meaning that he has missed a total of 13 games due to hamstring issues throughout his career.

The Cowboys stayed afloat without Lee earlier this year thanks to the play of linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Still, they’re a better defense with Lee on the field.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Rumors: Cowboys, Patriots, Michel, Jets

Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee aggravated his hamstring injury in Monday night’s game against the Titans and will be sidelined for “a little bit,” head coach Jason Garrett told reporters, including Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). Lee, of course, has had problems staying healthy throughout his lengthy career, as he’s never played a full 16-game slate and just recently missed Weeks 4-6. While Dallas’ defense has historically posted vastly inferior production without Lee on the field, those splits have become less stark thanks to the excellent play of fellow Cowboys linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • Lee isn’t the only member of the Cowboys expected to be sidelined for multiple weeks, as left guard Connor Williams is likely to require knee surgery that will knock him out of action for a few games, according to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. Williams’ injury isn’t season-ending, but he’s going to have to sit out for several weeks as he recovers. The 50th overall selection in the 2018 draft, Williams has been a middling option at guard this season, ranking 42nd among 75 positional qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. Per George, it’s unclear how the Cowboys will replace Williams, but La’el Collins — a former guard — won’t be moved off right tackle.
  • In the AFC, we have news on two injured Patriots running backs, including rookie Sony Michel. Michel suffered a knee injury against the Bears in Week 7 and hasn’t played since, but he’s on track to return against the Titans on Sunday, tweets Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. New England hasn’t had any trouble in its backfield even without Michel thanks to the efforts of James White and Cordarrelle Patterson, but Michel — who managed at least 18 carries and touchdown in Weeks 4-6 — will give the Patriots a more balanced attack.
  • Fellow Patriots running back Jeremy Hill announced on Twitter that he underwent surgery for his torn ACL on Monday. Hill suffered his knee injury in Week 1, but players will often wait on surgery for a variety of reasons. Hill, who is in his first season with New England, may have waited for swelling to subside, or, as Kevin Duffy of the Boston Herald tweets, Hill could have hoped to restore range of motion prior to an operation. After inking a one-year, $1.5MM deal this offseason, Hill will hit free agency next spring entering his age-27 campaign.
  • Is offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates the right play-caller to lead Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold‘s development? That’s the question Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News attempts to answer in his most recent column, noting that Darnold has displayed signs of progress despite his high interception totals.

Extra Points: Gordon, Pats, Lee, Giants, Lions

In a development that’s sure to prompt thousands of early phone alarms Sunday morning, Melvin Gordon has been downgraded to questionable. The Chargers‘ top threat is now a true game-time decision to play against the Titans in London, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Considering this is an 8:30am CT game, this will obviously test the commitment of Gordon’s North American-based fantasy owners while putting the Bolts down one of their best players. Gordon was a limited participant in Friday’s practice, but as ESPN’s Eric Williams notes (on Twitter), wasn’t listed on the injury report until Saturday. A hamstring malady places Gordon’s availability for Week 7 in question. The Chargers took precautions against a Gordon absence by promoting Detrez Newsome from their practice squad. Since finishing his first two NFL seasons on IR, Gordon has played in 22 straight games and emerged as one of the league’s best backs.

Here’s the latest from around the league:

  • The Cowboys will have the services of Sean Lee on Sunday against the Redskins. Lee is not on Dallas’ injury report for its game against Washington. He missed the past three games because of a hamstring strain, opening the door for first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch to log plenty of playing time. Vander Esch responded and enters Week 7 as Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 overall linebacker. Lee, Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith will split time in Dallas’ nickel package, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes.
  • A disastrous Giants start will result in more changes to their maligned offensive line. Big Blue will bench free agent guard pickup Patrick Omameh and move center John Greco to guard on Monday night, Dan Duggan of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Former Chargers starting center Spencer Pulley will move into the role of Giants first-string snapper, Duggan adds. Omameh suffered a knee injury in practice this week, but Duggan notes this decision was made prior to that occurring. PFF slots the former Jaguars starter as its No. 67 guard (out of 73 full-time players at this position). He’s signed to a three-year, $15MM deal. Pulley, who started all 16 games for the Chargers last season, landed in New York via post-preseason waiver claim. Pulley will join Greco and right tackle Chad Wheeler as replacement starters for this year’s Giants front.
  • Despite logging three limited practices this week, Ziggy Ansah will not return for the Lions on Sunday. Detroit declared its top pass rusher out for a fifth straight game. The franchise-tagged defensive end said (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press) like he felt like he could play, but the Lions will continue to soldier on without him. He’s been trying to surmount a shoulder injury since exiting in Week 1 because of it.
  • T.J. Lang, however, will return to the Lions’ lineup. The veteran guard missed two games because of a concussion and sought medical advice from several doctors, per Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. While Lang’s return will be a welcome sight for Lions fans, Meinke does not expect Detroit to keep him around in 2019. The final year of Lang’s Lions deal comes with an $11.7MM cap hit. It would save the Lions $9MM if they cut Lang, for whom they authorized a $9.5MM-AAV deal in 2017.
  • Rob Gronkowski is almost certainly going to miss the Patriots-Bears game, with ankle and back trouble keeping the all-world tight end home after his team departed for Chicago. But the Patriots will also be without backup Jacob Hollister, the team announced. This leaves Dwayne Allen as the only healthy tight end available. The former Colt has one catch this season. The Pats still haven’t declared Gronk out, which would make for an interesting sequence of events were he to play without boarding the team plane.

NFC Notes: 49ers, Thomas, Lee, Packers

Seven workouts has not yet produced an addition to San Francisco’s quarterback room, and one may not be coming despite the new 49ers backup being a former UDFA only promoted to the active roster this week. The 49ers do not plan to sign a veteran quarterback this week, NFL.com’s Jim Trotter tweets. While he adds that remains a possibility in the near future, don’t expect an outside addition to come this week. E.J. Manuel, Tom Savage, Kellen Clemens, T.J. Yates, Landry Jones, Matt Simms and Kyle Allen all worked out for the 49ers. But the NFC’s Bay Area team is evidently set with a C.J. BeathardNick Mullens depth chart heading into its Week 4 clash with the Chargers. The 49ers’ chances of being a surprise playoff contender absorbed a massive blow last week when Jimmy Garoppolo went down, and Kyle Shanahan said any veteran added would not be a threat to usurp Beathard. The second-year Iowa product started five games last season, completing 54.9 percent of his passes and throwing four touchdown passes compared to six interceptions. The 49ers went 1-4 in those games.

Here’s the latest from the NFC:

  • The Cowboys‘ defensive fortunes have generally taken hits when Sean Lee isn’t available, and the linebacker’s latest absence comes at a bad time for the 1-2 team. Dallas will be without its top linebacker for a few weeks “at least,” Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Lee suffered a hamstring injury on Sunday. This latest setback involves Lee’s right hamstring. A left hamstring issue caused him to miss time last season. First-round pick Leighton Vander Esch now stands to see a more prominent role in the near future.
  • Dallas remains the favorite to acquire Earl Thomas, in the event the Seahawks trade him, Terez Paylor of Yahoo.com writes. Thomas drew a penalty for bowing at the Cowboys’ bench following an interception in Seattle’s Week 3 win over Dallas. The Cowboys have offered a second-round pick for Thomas, but the Seahawks still want more. The safety nonetheless heard more rumblings about a deal with Dallas on Sunday, though. “Yeah, of course, I heard chatter. People were coming up to me and saying a trade might happen,” Thomas said. “Even pregame, a couple Cowboys coaches came up to me, I don’t know if they were playing psychological games, but they were like, ‘You ready for the trade tomorrow?” He remains a Seahawk, but the situation’s become quite strange.
  • Thomas said after Seattle’s win he missed two practices last week to protect himself from injury, and he expects to be fined for the absences. This is consistent with a report that emerged pregame Sunday. “I need to make sure my body is 100,” he said, via Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. “I’m invested in myself. If they was invested in me, I would be out there practicing. But if I feel like anything — I don’t give a damn if it’s small, I’ve got a headache — I’m not practicing. But I don’t want that to be taken the wrong way. I know I’m going to get fined. But that’s just where I’m at with that.” Pete Carroll said the Seahawks still “love” Thomas as a person and a player and described communication between the team and the All-Pro safety as “ongoing.” Carroll did not specify if this communication is regarding an extension.
  • The Packers are preparing to start Byron Bell at right guard on Sunday against the Bills, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes. Justin McCray is dealing with a shoulder injury, one the Packers don’t believe will be a long-term issue. However, Bell is expected to step in for the time being. An eighth-year player, Bell’s spent almost the entirety of his career at tackle. He has previously played guard but hasn’t worked there nearly as much as he has on the edge.

Injury Notes: Winston, Freeman, Fuller, Hurns

We heard yesterday that Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston could miss “an extended period” of time as he recovered from a shoulder injury. However, head coach Dirk Koetter was still adamant that the franchise signal-caller would take the field again this season.

“Again, (the plan we adopted) was for Jameis to rest for two weeks and then we’re going to see where he’s at,” Koetter said (via Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders). “We’ve talked to multiple doctors (about it) and that’s what the plan is.

 “And I know that Jameis plans on playing again (this year). And there’s been no discussion between Jason and myself of him not playing again so that would all be something that would have to come up in the future.’’

Let’s take a look at some more injury notes from around the NFL…

  • Falcons running back Devonta Freeman is unlikely to suit up for next Monday’s game against the Seahawks, reports ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Freeman suffered his second concussion of the season this past weekend, although Schefter notes that the player isn’t expected to miss multiple games. The 25-year-old has compiled 515 rushing yards and five touchdowns this season.
  • Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee may be forced to shut it down for several weeks. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the defender is unlikely to play this week or during the team’s Thanksgiving contest against the Chargers. Head coach Jason Garrett confirmed that Lee may miss several games, noting that “it might be some time” before he returns (via Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com).
  • Texans wideout Will Fuller suffered a cracked rib during his team’s loss to the Rams this weekend, according to Rapoport (via Twitter). Fortunately, the second-year player didn’t experience extensive damage and may only miss a single game. The 23-year-old has been a touchdown machine this season, hauling in seven scores.
  • We learned last week that Bengals running back Jeremy Hill‘s season was over, and it sounds like it was the player’s decision to be placed on the injured reserve. Head coach Marvin Lewis said it was Hill who ultimately opted for the ankle surgery, which resulted in him landing on the injured reserve (via Rapoport on Twitter). The former second-rounder has compiled only 116 rushing yards on 37 carries this season, a far cry from his 1,124-yard performance in 2014.
  • Jaguars wideout Allen Hurns suffered a right ankle injury against the Chargers on Sunday, and coach Doug Marrone doesn’t see him taking the field this weekend. “Yeah, I don’t anticipate him playing this week,’’ Marrone said (via Cummings). “I would say yes (in terms of him missing this week), but I wouldn’t know (about his availability) after that.’’ As Cummings points out, Hurns absence could force the team to finally play wideout Dede Westbrook, who is eligible to be activated off of the injured reserve.

Cowboys, Sean Lee Restructure Contract

The Cowboys have restructured the contract of linebacker Sean Lee, according to ESPN.com’s Todd Archer (Twitter link). The move will give Dallas a little more than $5MM in space to work with, sources say. Sean Lee (vertical)

Lee, 31 in July, missed the entire 2014 season and but came back strong in 2015, earning a Pro Bowl nod along the way. This past season, he topped himself by getting a Pro Bowl nod as well as a First-Team All-Pro selection, the first of his career.

As of this writing, the Cowboys now have about $9MM in breathing room. That will come in handy this week, particularly if the Cowboys are serious about major expenditures like wide receiver Kenny Britt. Still, space is limited and we are expecting the Cowboys to ration out their available room to spend. Already, the Cowboys are anticipating the loss of several key free agents.

The Cowboys also recently restructured the deals of tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.