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Sean Lee Extension Analysis

August 22, 2013

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I’m about as big of a Sean Lee fan as you will find and I still can’t wrap my brain around this contract extension. It’s a 6 year $42 million extension that can go as high as $50 million if he hits incentives. The bottom number is the important one though as it means that even if he misses large chunks of a season due to injury he still will be making $7 million a year. To put that in perspective Patrick Willis, universally regarded as the best inside linebacker in the game, only makes $7.6 million annually on his 7 year contract he signed in 2010. Like all NFL contracts the devil is in the details as Lee is really now on a 7 year $42.63 million deal yet even at that lower rate ($6.1 million) I’m still uncomfortable with the money the Cowboys have given to a highly talented but often injured guy like Lee. Yes they love his work ethic, his character, and his age (with Ware and Ratliff on the wrong side of 30 and Spencer on a 1 year deal the Cowboys needed to lock up a young player and Lee made a lot of sense in that regard) but the reality is that the Cowboys just made a player, who has yet to be named to a Pro Bowler let alone an All-Pro team, one of the 5 highest paid players at his position in the NFL. In my opinion linebackers are often a dime a dozen and while I agree that Lee is one of the better playmakers in the NFL for a linebacker, his ability to make plays in the passing game really sets him apart, there is no reason Jerry Jones should have overpaid for Lee in this way. He was set to make $630,000 this season and if they couldn’t get a deal worked out next offseason they could have franchise tagged him. That option is far more enticing for a player like Lee who is a linebacker and would have only been eligible for a 1 year $9.6 million deal than it is for a player like Spencer who is a pass rusher and eligible for a 1 year $11.2 million deal. The fact that the Cowboys did the latter this season with Spencer while avoiding the former with Lee next season just shows me that Jerry doesn’t really strategically plan his financial moves. My last argument for why Lee doesn’t deserve a contract of this size is by using an example: Navarro Bowman. Both were linebackers drafted in the 2010 NFL Draft with Lee drafted in the 2nd round and Bowman in the 3rd round. After 3 NFL seasons Lee has amassed 195 tackles, 0 sacks, 2 FF, and 7 INT while being named to 0 All Pro or Pro Bowl teams. Bowman on the other hand has amassed 337 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 FF, and 1 INT while being named to 2 All Pro teams (2011, 2012) and 1 Pro Bowl team (2012). Bowman is the superior player (I by the way had Bowman ranked higher than Lee in my 2010 NFL Draft Rankings but I digress) yet the Cowboys view them as essentially equals with Lee now on a 7 yr $42.63 mil deal that is eerily similar to Bowman’s 7 yr $46.37 mil deal. That is my biggest issue as Bowman has been an elite linebacker the past few seasons and was rewarded with a contract that puts him among the best at his position. Lee has only shown flashes of becoming that elite player yet Jerry still rewarded him as if he had stayed healthy, had made All Pro teams, and had become recognizes as a star player. I was all for Jerry locking up Sean Lee but thought a 5-6 yr $25-35 million extension would be the ballpark they would be looking at. Instead Jerry overpaid and put an unwelcome burden on Sean Lee who now has to become a 16 game starter with +100 tackles to his name every year otherwise he’ll be deemed a disappointment. It was a strange signing for sure and one that disappoints me as I suspect it will end up forcing the Cowboys to cut Sean Lee in 3-5 years when he doesn’t live up to his contract. This signing will make Sean a very rich man but it likely will also keep him from being a lifelong Cowboy.

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3 Comments
  1. Eric permalink

    You’re clearly not as big of a Sean Lee fan than some people. You have no problem letting him play out, make the All Pro team and then franchise him so he can do it again and then you kargument as one the best in the leauge sealed up. Jerry isnt thinking of the future? This is a now league you get paid for what you’re going to do, not what youve done. And btw dpnt put too much weight into tackle totals Sean Lee got the tackle on over 17% of his snaps last year.

  2. Thanks for your comment! I would just respond to your “you get paid for what you’re going to do, not what youve done” by pointing out that previous performance is a pretty good indicator of future performance. Lee has never been in the Top 20 among LBs in tackles for a season yet he is now being paid as if he’s one of the 5 best in the game. I have a problem with that. Also him missing 10 games last year was a huge reason for the Cowboys finishing 24th in the league in scoring defense so I don’t think you can just overlook his injury history or hope him missing 27% of the games in his career to this point has just been a fluke and won’t continue. He has All-Pro potential and I’ve said that before but I thought the contract was pretty rich for a guy that to this point has been higher on potential than on production.

    • Eric permalink

      Thank you for the reply, i apologize for the wait on my part. Again I feel as we have the same view but if we take your strategy to allow him to play out his contract i believe we would end up paying more no matter what happens. We need to secure our future and I believe we should extend Bryant before he has an all-pro year. This team has a badhistory of extending their own players but these two guys? C’mon

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