Oct 7, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (54) looks across the line during the third quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Urlacher and Vilma - Progress Stoppers or Instant Upgrades?

In the wake of Sean Lee’s season ending knee injury the Cowboys are said to be exploring all options in filling the massive void at MLB. By exploring all options the Cowboys are looking internally and externally to help solidify the LB corps. MIKE LB, Sean Lee, has always served as the leader of the defense, diagnosing plays and calling coverages. With Lee gone from the mix, all three of the starting linebacker spots are now up for grabs.

“We’re always looking at the landscape of players,” Jason Garrett said. “Free agents on the street, trade opportunities, anybody we think that could help our football team at any position. We’re always doing that.”

Two popular names being thrown around are Brian Urlacher and Jonathan Vilma. Both are accomplished Pro Bowlers who have experience running a defense similar to the Cowboys. Both are team leaders who would instantly demand respect.

Both are notably over-the-hill but both would likely make up for a certain amount of skill-loss with their knowledge and leadership. Both would be interim fixes only and not part of the Cowboys’ long term planning. Both would also be stop gaps possibly standing in the way of a young player’s development.

Bringing in a veteran like Urlacher or Vilma would have obvious positives and negatives. It comes down to what exactly the Cowboys are trying to accomplish in 2014.

If the Cowboys want to win as many games as possible in 2014, and do so at all costs, bringing in a veteran is almost a no-brainer. Defensive confusion was aplenty in 2013 and having a respected vet who could diagnose and call coverages would likely make everyone better.

If the Cowboys want to build the best possible team for the long-term, then adding a veteran could be a progress stopper to some of the young players who would have otherwise been thrown into some on-the-job training. It’s tough to say any specific young LB on the Cowboys roster is primed for NFL success. The LB corps is largely made up of mid to late round picks and undrafted free agents without very pronounced expectations.

November 25, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Jonathan Vilma (51) eyes San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) from across the line during the first quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

To say an addition like Urlacher would conclusively be a progress stopper to any of the players on the Cowboys roster would just be a stretch. The fact is the Cowboys just don’t what they have and they likely won’t until they start to give them game action. Unfortunately by then, it may be too late to add a Vilma or Urlacher to the team.

Head Coach Jason Garrett also said this,

“We drafted a couple of linebackers, we have some young guys we feel good about, so we want to give those guys every opportunity.”

The Cowboys face a tough decision in coming days and weeks. If they honestly believe they have a contender here in Dallas then they owe it to the players, coaches, and fans, to bring in someone proven to compete. If they think they are a season or more away from becoming a real contender then they will probably be best served to roll the dice, see what they have, and try to develop for the long term.

What do you think? Are the Cowboys better off adding a vet or should they see what they have in-house first?

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Tags: Brian Urlacher Dallas Cowboys Jonathan Vilma Sean Lee

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