Sean Lee has been a highlight of the Cowboys defense since being drafted by Dallas in the second round of the 2010 draft. Despite his obvious talent, he has, along the way, garnered a reputation for being oft-injured, appearing in 16-games only once in his nine-year career, but that feat was accomplished in 2019, when he shared the load with two young and talented linebackers in Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith.
Lee played 637 defensive snaps in 2019. By contrast, Redskins starting linebacker Jon Bostic played 1,031.
Perhaps Lee’s usage as part of a rotation at linebacker is part of the key to keeping him healthy and contributing for a full season. The last time Lee played 15 games in a season prior to 2019 was during the 2016 season. He was on the field for 975 snaps that year, but, of course, he was “only” 30 years old at the time.
Lee is now 33, going on 34, and he has been a career Cowboy.
Nevertheless, the Redskins are thin at linebacker, and experience in a 4-3 defensive scheme. In addition to his physical skills, Lee is known to be one of the smartest players in the league. He was able to account for 86 tackles, 4 passes defended and an interception last season, playing only about 65% of the defensive snaps. He appears to have more to offer a team in need of leadership at the linebacker position.
Sports Illustrated talked to Lee this week. They asked him about his future now that he is approaching free agency in March.
“I’m still deciding,’’ Lee tells CowboysSI.com in an exclusive visit. “I’m waiting to kind of explore what some of my options are.’’
Including retiring to go into coaching?
”I have not explored that yet,’’ Lee said. “I’m focusing on playing as of now.’’
Jerry Jones has mentioned Sean Lee as one of the impending free agents that he’s interested in re-signing, but with Smith and Vander Esch, one wonders just how valuable the nine-year veteran Lee will be to the Dallas defense, and new head coach Mike McCarthy certainly won’t feel the sense of debt to Lee that Jason Garrett likely would have.
It’s possible that Lee, if he’s not ready to hang up his cleats, might be looking for a home in 2020.
I’ve often felt that Sean Lee, if he had been able to stay healthy and on the field more, would have been a potential Hall-of-Fame candidate. Instead, he sometimes seems to belong in the same category as Jordan Reed — a great talent that couldn’t answer the bell on game days often enough.
Still, his 2019 season is an indication that — used the right way — Lee can still be a truely valuable contributor to an NFL defense. His statistics in limited snaps in 2019 rivaled those of some NFL starters. His sideline-to-sideline play would be welcome on game days, and young players like Shaun Dion Hamilton, Cole Holcomb and Reuben Foster would certainly learn a huge amount by having him as a teammate.
That kind of talent, game knowledge, and Lee’s fiery attitude might be welcome in the Redskins locker room under Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio — two former linebackers who may respect and value what Sean Lee has to offer.
If the Cowboys don’t re-sign him before 18 March, should the Redskins try to sign Sean Lee in free agency?
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