IRVING, Texas – Sean Lee has been a lock at inside linebacker for three years with the Dallas Cowboys. Tonight, the team locked him up through the 2019 season.
The Cowboys inked Lee, who is set to begin his fourth NFL campaign next month, to a six-year contract extension worth roughly $42 million, but could escalate as high as $51 million depending on play-time incentives.
Lee reportedly will get more than $16 million guaranteed over the life of the contract.
Lee had one year remaining on the original four-year contract he signed as the No. 55 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. In three seasons, he has started 21 games, including just six last year when toe surgery cut his season short.
Injuries were taken into consideration in negotiating the deal, which has a few play-time incentives to protect the Cowboys in case Lee misses more time due to injury.
Lee is the Cowboys’ middle linebacker and centerpiece of the 4-3 scheme under new coordinator Monte Kiffin.
“When we look at things we need to do, short and long term, his agreement is on that list,” Jones said earlier this month. “Those things have to fit and we certainly, in terms of planning and management of our cap dollars and our future, we’re planning on having him on the team.
“He’d be at the top of the list. Yeah, I’d say he’d be at the top.”
The two sides had discussions this off-season. Lee was in the final year of a contract that pays him $630,000. He counts about $930,000 against the salary cap.
The club had about $10 million in cap room, meaning the extension with Lee will move more money into this season and ease the cap hit somewhat moving forward.
“Next year is going to be a tight year for us with the cap,” Jones said. “We’ve got to really be pretty resourceful.”
IRVING, Texas — Dallas Cowboys starting right tackle Doug Free took some snaps at right guard in front of the media during Wednesday’s practice.
Free has never played guard in the NFL, college or high school and said the biggest challenges are “the proximity to them (defenders) and the angle to the quarterback.”
The Cowboys have a shortage of interior linemen in the late stages of training camp because of injuries to left guards Ronald Leary and Nate Livings. The team tried to sign two veteran offensive linemen and were rebuffed by Brandon Moore, who elected to retire, and Brian Waters, who didn’t accept the Cowboys’ contract offer.
There’s a chance Free will start at right guard in Saturday’s fourth preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday with Mackenzy Bernadeau getting snaps at left guard. The Cowboys are keeping Free on the right side so he can maintain a right-handed stance.
“It’s too early to tell,” Free said. “I don’t know anything.”
What the Cowboys do know is that Free can physically play the position despite a body type (6-6, 325 pounds) that is more suited for a tackle.
“This isn’t quite so, so new,” coach Jason Garrett said. “But there are differences. You play out in space more as a tackle. You play in a phone booth more as a guard. You might take more direct heat on you, guys bull rushing you more inside. So length is important to be able to keep those guys off of you. Sometimes you play against those (defensive tackles) that are up the field, length is important there. That feels a little bit playing like tackle.”
Of course, the Cowboys could also go back to Bernadeau as the starting right guard if and when Leary or Livings returns from minor knee surgeries.
“I thought Doug did a really good job moving inside,” center Travis Frederick said. “He’s such an intelligent player, been in the league for several years, just knows his way around, so it makes it pretty easy for him.
“Obviously there’s going to be a few things here and there, just the feel of how much help you’re going to get. The things I’ve talked about switching from center to guard, it’s the same from guard to tackle. You pretty much know what the guard is doing. In his case, he certainly does, and he knows what everybody is doing, so it makes it easier for him assignment-wise.”
IRVING, Texas — Rookie safety J.J. Wilcox returned to the Cowboys’ practice fields on Wednesday after being away for 10 days because of the death of his mother, Marshell. She passed away on Aug. 13 after a long battle with Lupis. She was 49.
“It’s tough, it’s tough, when you get accustomed to somebody for 33 years with my dad, and 22 years with me and they are all of sudden gone, it’s tough,” Wilcox said. “It’s still fighting me to this day. I felt it a little at practice, but I’m going to be strong, be blessed and I’m going to keep pushing.”
Wilcox didn’t tell any of his teammates or coaches his mom was ill until he got a phone call the day after the Oakland Raiders second preseason game on Aug. 9. Wilcox was told by family members to return to Cairo, Ga., when his mother took a turn for the worst. Wilcox told a Cowboys administration assistant about his mother and that’s how some team members found out about it.
Several players texted, called and fellow rookie, cornerback B.W. Webb wore Wilcox’s jersey during a walkthrough practice before the Arizona Cardinals game last week as a sign of support.
“It made a difference,” Wilcox said. “When I saw that it definitely brought tears to my eyes, and let me know that the guys still love me and they’re still backing me 110 percent when I’m not here. So that makes a difference.”
It’s uncertain if Wilcox will play in Saturday’s fourth preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday at AT&T Stadium, but Wilcox said he was happy to return to playing football after taking care of his family.
“Oh, it’s good, man, it’s a relief,” the Cowboys’ third-round pick said. “Especially in the hard times that I had back home for the last week or so. So it was just good to get back and have fun again.”
IRVING — Cincinnati is next up on the schedule.
That doesn’t mean the Bengals have the Dallas Cowboys’ undivided attention.
The regular season opens in less than three weeks. While the coaches get the players ready to face Cincinnati this weekend, they are also starting to prepare for the game against New York on Sept. 8.
“Yeah, we’re watching some of the Giants tape,” tight end Jason Witten said. “Obviously, they’re a big division opponent. We know them well. They know us.
“Everything’s moving that way.”
The Cowboys aren’t overlooking the Bengals. This and the final preseason game are chances to clean up what’s not working as the team gets ready for the regular season.
Saturday’s game is significant because the starters will play into the second half.
“This is the game we’ll get most of our work for the preseason,” Witten said. “I think it’s been a good, productive camp. We just got to continue to build it here down the stretch.”
And cast an eye toward the Giants.
“We’ve started doing a little in the card drills, going over what they run,” defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said of New York. “But we’re still in training camp mode.”
Jones: Cowboys can compete: Jerry Jones isn’t going to make any grandiose claims. But the owner is confident of how his team stacks up going into the season.
“If you look at the fact that these teams are pretty equal in the NFL and you look at where we are, you know we can compete,” Jones said Tuesday on KRLD-FM (105.3). “We really can compete.
“Now, will injury decimate that? Will injury impact that? Who knows? The bottom line is, we can compete.
“Over the last two years, a lot of people would say, ‘I don’t call 8-8 competing.’ They’d be justified in saying that. But we were real close there, getting down to the end of the year. We were close to getting in the tournament and doing some good things.”
Practice update: Morris Claiborne will miss Saturday’s dress rehearsal against Cincinnati.
The cornerback jammed his knee two weeks ago and hasn’t practiced since. Head coach Jason Garrett said he doesn’t anticipate Claiborne will do much in practice this week or play this weekend.
Receiver Cole Beasley (foot) and safety Matt Johnson (foot) are also expected to miss the game, but Garrett is hopeful the two will be able to work into practice next week and play in the preseason finale against Houston.
Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore (groin injury) returned to practice after a one-week absence and hopes to play against the Bengals. Rookie safety J.J. Wilcox, who has been excused from the team following the death of his mother, is scheduled to return.
“I have not spoken to him,” Garrett said. “We have texted back and forth with him, and we anticipate him coming back [Wednesday] to hopefully practice on Thursday.”
OT Bell shaping up: OT Demetress Bell tipped the scales at 350 pounds when he reported to Oxnard. He is down to 328 and would like to drop another 10 or so pounds.
“I can’t say nothing bad about the Cowboys,” Bell said. “It sounds like they love me. I’ve just got to do my job, do my part to stick.”