Is this Sean Lee’s last regular season game with Dallas?
Linebacker, Sean Lee, and the Dallas Cowboys are gearing up to face the New York Giants in a game with no playoff implications. Many fans wonder which players will play, thinking the Cowboys might rest starters for the playoffs. But reports say that Sean Lee will get at least a few snaps. On Sunday, will Lee play his last regular season snap with the Cowboys?
Lee has missed nine games this season, making it 51 total missed games in his nine-year career. And though he has been the cornerstone of Dallas’ defense since the departure of longtime pass-rusher, Demarcus Ware, the Cowboys might have to part ways with him in the offseason. Next year, Lee is set to cost 10.0 million dollars against the cap, per Spotrac.
With the emergence of linebackers, Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, keeping Lee at that price would not be an effective use of cap space. Stars like Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Demarcus Lawrence, and Byron Jones are all going to be in contract negotiations this offseason.
This is a new era of the Dallas Cowboys. The team is getting younger and faster, and keeping an aging player with injury problems would hinder the future success of the franchise.
With all this being said, there is a way to solve all of these problems without cutting Lee.
Sean Lee could take a pay cut or the Cowboys can restructure his deal.
Let’s look at these two options.
Option 1: Lee takes a pay cut
Of course, this path would require Lee wanting to take a pay cut. Lee could probably go get a starting job with better money than with the Dallas Cowboys. A team like the San Fransisco 49ers could use a leader/veteran like Sean Lee (especially due to the young linebacker, Rueben Foster, leaving for the Washington Redskins).
If Dallas would offer a pay cut to Lee, it would show the Cowboys still believe in Sean Lee and what he brings on the field and in the locker room. But also shows they are not blind to Lee’s lessening value.
Now, what is a good number that general manager/owner Jerry Jones and Lee could agree on? The Cowboys should try to get Lee for around 2 million, but they could possibly settle somewhere around 5 million dollars. That would still save 5 million dollars for 2019 and the team would an experienced linebacker with coach-like presence and authority.
This decision would instantly let Cowboys be more flexible in contract negotiations and free-agency in the upcoming offseason.
Option 2: Restructuring Lee’s contract
This may sound strange, but stay with me: The Dallas Cowboys could actually “extend” Sean Lee’s contract.
They could extend him into next year while at the same time, save money.
Dallas could spread out his 10 million dollar cap hit over two years. Depending on what they do with other players this offseason, they could pay 8 million in 2019 and 2 million in 2020, or the other way around.
Like a child playing with legos, The possibilities are endless!
This would not be uncharted territory for the Cowboys, as they have used this strategy before, most notably with future Hall-of-Famer, Jason Witten.
Lee would not even have to play in 2020, yet Dallas would still be forced to pay his salary.
This strategy involves more financial expertise and risk on Jerry’s part than offering a pay cut or releasing the player altogether. This path is probably the least likely solution, but there is no question that Jerry and Stephen Jones have been discussing every possible answer.
Cutting Sean Lee
This is the bluntest, but perhaps the best decision for the organization.
If the Dallas Cowboys decided to cut Lee, they could save 7 million dollars in 2019. They would not save the full 10 million dollars because of the agreements in Lee’s contract. This is what happens when you cut players under contract. You save a lot of money, but still pay the player until the length of the contract expires. This is refered to as “dead money”. Every team in the NFL is restricted by not just the money they are playing the current roster, but players they have recently released as well.
Here is a list of ex-Cowboys players that still take up the team’s salary cap:
Cutting a player is not as simple as it sounds.
Do you remember Benson Mayowa?
If you do not remember, he was the defensive end that Cowboys Nation was hoping could be the “war-daddy” this defense needed.
Well, the Cowboys still are suffering his 1.1 million dollars from his contract.
A common misunderstanding by many who are freaking out over the number of players that need a new contract is that they forget that the Cowboys will not be paying a total of 16.9 million dollars between Tony Romo’s and Dez Bryant’s contracts in 2019.
Whatever the Dallas Cowboys do with Sean Lee in the offseason will heavily affect the ability to re-sign key players and their aggressiveness in free agency. Dallas surrendered a first-round pick to acquire wide receiver, Amari Cooper. So, it would not be surprising if Jerry Jones wants to make a splash in grabbing a difference maker like safety, Earl Thomas.
Nonetheless, expect the Joneses to do their very best to be respectful to Sean Lee, but also look out for the best of the team.