When linebacker Sean Lee decided to continue to forgo retirement and take a pay cut to continue his career with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019, it was generally assumed that he would return as a backup to middle linebacker Jaylon Smith and weakside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.
But per multiple sources, the Cowboys plan to return Lee, 32, to the starting lineup as the replacement for the departed Damien Wilson at strongside linebacker.
It makes sense for the Cowboys and Lee.
The strongside linebacker mainly plays on running downs so it will still limit Lee’s exposure in hopes of keeping him healthy for a full season. He has missed 14 games over the last two seasons.
Wilson played 286 snaps in 2018, 27.93 percent of all defensive snaps.
Consider that Lee missed nine games last season with a hamstring injury but played 220 snaps or 21.48 percent.
The Cowboys still plan on using Lee to spell Vander Esch and Smith.
Lee got the promise to start when he decided to come back at a reduced salary. His base salary was slashed from $7 million to $2 million with the possibility of making some of it up in play-time incentives.
But it also spoke to how much he wanted to continue playing after contemplating retirement.
“How the last two years have gone was tough for me,” Lee said recently. “That is something I had to battle but seeing our team grow from the middle of the season until the end, it was something I said I had to find a way to be part of it.
I said I like football too much to give it up. Now all that together, brought me back.”
And now back in the starting lineup.