Could The Dallas Cowboys Have The Best Linebacker Corps In The NFL?


Yes, this question gets a huge “what if” next to it, but it’s rather intriguing nonetheless:

Can the Dallas Cowboys end up with the best linebacker corps in the NFL in 2015?

More from The Landry Hat

I know, I know – former Buffalo Bills middle linebacker Kiko Alonso to Philadelphia has mad scientist and Birds head coach Chip Kelly and his Eagles poised for greatness. But let’s think about what the Cowboys have in store for the NFC East at linebacker themselves.

Many have waited, and waited, and waited for presumed-former middle linebacker Sean Lee to finally make it through a full regular season unscathed by injury. Last year was so bad that the five-year veteran missed the entire season, further diminishing the hope that the former Penn State tackler will ever realize his full potential in the NFL.

Lee has 11 career interceptions and has been involved in 294 tackles during his limited five-year career. Granted, those numbers could be much higher if not for the injuries, which leads me to the question again:

Can the Dallas Cowboys wind up with the NFL’s best group of linebackers?

Now, Lee isn’t the only guy that makes this idea a potential reality for the coming season.

To begin the month of April, the Cowboys did what was beginning to look less and less likely as the offseason progressed; America’s Team decided to go ahead and re-sign current middle linebacker Rolando McClain on, of all days, April Fool’s Day.

Here’s to the idea that owner and general manager Jerry Jones doesn’t end up the fool on this deal.

The contract is franchise-friendly and it secures the services of arguably Dallas’ best defensive player a year ago, but not beyond this coming season.

For the opening question to be answered “yes”, there’s some things that have to line up here as well.

McClain now has a failed drug test hanging over his head, which makes his future availability for a 16-game schedule not exactly something you want to bet on.

Nonetheless, if McClain stays clean, out of trouble off-the-field and also healthy, I submit that just having the possibility of having Lee and McClain on the field together is a huge step towards that “yes” that Cowboys fans are hoping for.

To be clear, Lee is expected to scoot outside in giving way to McClain in the middle.

What’s the likelihood that this linebacker group will perform as desired?

Well, this is a different story entirely. Which is why one of Dallas’ less-discussed needs in the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft in Chicago is actually outside linebacker – or middle even.

Lee and McClain have some things in common, including the fact that both players were drafted in the same year (2010). Neither has ever played a full 16-game season and both have actually missed an entire year due to either injury or brief retirement, McClain fitting the latter description.

Are we to believe that ’15 is finally the year that either, or both, of these players stay on the field for the whole year?

Well, if you’re hoping that Dallas is the NFC representative in Super Bowl 50 next February, then you’d better at least hope that this is the case.

Other talented linebackers like Bruce Carter and Justin Durant are long gone via free agency. So that pretty much leaves second-year veteran Anthony Hitchens as the guy that might round out the starting linebacker position.

Or …

There’s some interesting prospects in the upcoming player selection meeting that begins in just under two weeks.

If you’ve been cruising the dozens of mock drafts over the last several weeks, you’ll notice that not very many have the Cowboys selecting a linebacker – this is one reason that one shouldn’t be shocked if this is exactly what happens.

Earlier this offseason, I offered a case for Washington linebacker/safety/running back Shaq Thompson as a potential sleeper selection for Dallas. If the best player available is truly what Jones desires, there’s a chance that the Huskies star might be exactly that once he goes on the clock with the expected 27th selection in the first round.

More recently, Bob Sturm of the Dallas Morning News offers his enthusiasm for the selection of UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks in the first round.

"“I would be thrilled,” Sturm responded to a reader’s question about the prospect falling to the Cowboys at No. 27 overall. “Kendricks is a tremendous player who I think is the top non-pass rush LB in the draft. If he is your highest pick at #27, I would not mind that player at all. He is a legit prospect for sure who excels with his speed and tackling ability.”"

Let’s not act as though linebacker is not a position of great concern, even if it could very well be among the best groups in the league this year.

Dallas was apparently very close to selecting 2014 first-round linebacker Ryan Shazier when he was actually drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers a year ago. This was well before Lee’s injury to begin training camp just weeks later and also before the mad scramble to talk McClain out of retirement.

Think about that.

Yes, this position looks great on paper. But in terms of possible adversity, it’s paper-thin, period.

Still, with a little bit of luck and perhaps an early selection in the coming draft, the Cowboys could possibly field the best group of linebackers in the NFL next season.

Next: Dallas Cowboys Have Two Weeks To Trade For Adrian Peterson