The Dallas Cowboy’s star linebacker Sean Lee is entering the final season of his contract. In 2014 the former 2nd round pick will be a free agent and free to sign with any NFL team of his choosing. Word out of Valley Ranch is the Cowboys are in talks with Lee about an extension. And it will be a mistake if they do. If not extending Lee sounds risky, that’s because it is.
But I’m here to tell you it’s a risk worth taking.
Sep 16, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) is stopped by Dallas Cowboys inside linebacker Sean Lee (50) during the game at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Dallas 27-7. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Lee has an extensive injury history. Some injuries he could play through (albeit play handicapped), while others ended his seasons. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise since Sean Lee was drafted injured. In college Lee played like a superstar. He had solid first round grades until he suffered a season ending knee injury. That knee injury is the only reason he landed in Dallas.
The Cowboys still had Lee on their draft board and still had him ranked as a first rounder. When Lee fell to the 2nd round Dallas pounced. Lee essentially redshirted his rookie year as he recovered from injury and learned the defense. The next season seemed like he was breaking out when he suffered injury again. He was forced to wear a bulky cast the rest of that 2011 season and while he performed admirably, he wasn’t nearly as impactful as he was before injury. In 2012 he started hot again. Stop me if you heard this before… but he was injured again this time landing on Injured Reserve less than halfway through the season.
Does Sean Lee have a history of injury? He most certainly does. Some say injuries are a product of randomness and one player isn’t any more injury prone than another. This argument makes sense but deep down we know better. Some players are almost impervious to injury. But others can’t avoid it. Miles Austin’s hamstrings aren’t unlucky. They are injury prone and we all know it.
Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys injured linebacker Sean Lee on the sidelines during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
With that said, it’s still possible these injures were just a series of unlucky flukes – And that Sean Lee is never substantially injured again. That’s exactly why we use this season to solidify our opinion.
Keep in mind, if Lee has a fantastic injury-free 2013 season, the Cowboys could lose him. While the thought of that seems freighting to the Cowboy’s it’s not nearly as frightening as the thought of signing a chronically injured player to long-term contract. Paying money to players who are always hurt can kill a team (again – see Miles Austin). If you can’t count on a player the second half of the season who cares how good they are every year at week one? What’s the point if he can’t help you when you really need him?
If Lee has another typical year of 50% brilliance and 50% injured then the Cowboys will be wise to let him walk (or sign him to a modest contract which assumes injury).
And if Lee has a breakout year the Cowboys will have to pay for it – but at least they’ll know. There is nothing wrong than paying more money to make the right decisions. Good decisions don’t hurt franchises. It’s bad decisions that hurt. The Cowboys would be wise to wait. But when was the last time that happened?
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