After receiving confirmation on Tuesday that Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee would indeed be sidelined for the 2014 season due to a torn ACL, only one reaction from fans was to be expected or even appropriate.
Lee has been injury prone throughout his NFL career through no fault of his own. ESPN points out that Lee suffered a torn right ACL which cost him his senior season in college. Then he partially tore his left ACL in 2009. A hamstring injury kept Lee out of two games in 2010 for the Cowboys, a dislocated wrist cost him a game in 2011, toe surgery kept him out of 10 games in 2012, and a strained hamstring and sprained neck cost him five games a season ago.
And now this.
Lee is exactly what the Cowboys want from a player. He doesn’t take plays off, he’s all over the field, and there’s nothing left in his tank at the end of the day. He’s the type of player that will never have to worry about thinking, “I could have done more.” Unfortunately, all that doesn’t make much of a difference for Dallas if he’s not on the field.
Now, the Cowboys have to begin considering life without Lee as they’ll go a full season without him. At a cost of $2.5 million in 2015 and $3 million in 2016, Lee may not be worth keeping on the roster. As good as he is when he’s on the field, his inability to stay healthy creates turmoil in the middle of the Cowboys’ defense when he’s unable to go.
The biggest problem for Dallas is that their defense changes drastically without Lee anchoring the middle. Because this injury happened so early in the offseason, the Cowboys have time to adjust, but they can’t expect to be able to do that in the middle of the season without some breakdowns that allow opposing teams to make big plays.
Lee’s contract is just too big for a player that can’t stay on the field. He’s a player that has now completely torn both his ACL’s, and he’s dealt with a number of other injuries throughout his career. It’s a shame that such a hard working player is being punished by unfortunate circumstances, but the NFL is an unforgiving league where injuries are simply a reality.
Dallas won’t move to cut Lee in the near future by any means. Although Lee’s contract is big for a player that struggles to stay on the field, it’s not so astronomical that Dallas needs to take immediate action. If, however, Lee is unable to make a successful comeback next year, his fate will almost certainly be sealed, and the Cowboys will have to move on without him.