Much to Jerry Jones’ delight, the “good base” of the Dallas Cowboys — a three-man group comprised of quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and linebacker Sean Lee — are returning for the 2020 season.
After the team franchise-tagged Prescott and handed Cooper $100 million, Lee was the final domino to topple. According to his agent, Mike McCartney, the unrestricted free agent linebacker on Tuesday inked a new one-year contract.
“Excited for Sean Lee to play another season for the @dallascowboys,” McCartney tweeted.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports the pact is worth $4.5 million, with $2 million guaranteed.
There wasn’t much of a market for Lee, who will be entering his age-34 campaign, likely as a backup. Following his decision to continue playing, it became evident he had two options: stay in Dallas or defect to the New York Giants, who now employ former head coach Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator.
Lee is coming off a surprisingly productive 2019 campaign in which he appeared in all 16 regular-season games for the first time as a pro, unbelievably. He made 13 starts working in place of Leighton Vander Esch, who landed on injured reserve due to a nagging neck ailment, later deemed spinal stenosis. Lee delivered 86 total tackles (second-most on the team), four pass deflections, one interception, and a sack.
Lee had a signature outing in Week 12, collecting a team-high 12 tackles, including nine solo stops, as Dallas trounced the Giants, 37-18. He also had a whopping 17 tackles (nine solo) during the Cowboys’ Week 16 loss to Philadelphia.
At the conclusion of the year, owner/general manager Jerry Jones stated he was “very impressed” by Lee’s performance.
“And I want all of him I can get,” Jones said on Dec. 29, via USA Today. “We’ve got a good base of players, and I don’t want to be trite when I say it, that includes Dak, that includes Amari, that includes Sean Lee, that we can have some great days with the Cowboys.”
Not that Jones’ hand needed to be forced on Lee, but uncertainly surrounding Vander Esch reduced the low-cost move to a no-brainer. Vander Esch, the club’s 2018 first-round pick, has since undergone surgery to repair the nerves in his neck, and Dallas brass has continually expressed confidence in his future. But the safer-than-sorry approach kicks in here.
It’s possible, perhaps probable, the Cowboys look to fortify the linebacker corps in next month’s NFL draft, for which they hold the No. 17 overall selection. The team has scheduled an official top-30 visit with Oklahoma stud Kenneth Murray, a consensus day-one talent.
Lee’s retention added a modicum of buzz to an otherwise sleepy signing period for the Cowboys, who’ve lost starting cornerback Byron Jones (Dolphins), defensive end Robert Quinn (Bears), safety Jeff Heath (Raiders), defensive lineman Maliek Collins (Raiders), tight end Jason Witten (Raiders), and wide receiver Randall Cobb (Texans) to outside competition.
The Cowboys on Tuesday also chose to decline offensive tackle Cam Fleming’s contract option, making him a free agent.
On Monday, the team re-signed restricted free agent tight end Blake Jarwin to a three-year, $24.2 million deal.
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