Dallas Cowboys: Three popular veterans who be could gone by 2018

Nov 20, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee (50) during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 20, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee (50) during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Dallas Cowboys roster gets younger, fans could have to deal with saying a few hard goodbyes to some of the team’s veteran stars in 2018.

At the start of the Dallas Cowboys 2014 season, my family took in a rambunctious kitten. I immediately named him after my favorite player. Little “Romo” had the energy and elusiveness of his namesake. My wife promptly vetoed the name, instead allowing a compromise: “Dallas.”

“What are you going to do when Tony Romo is no longer a Dallas Cowboy?”, she asked. Blasphemy!  Romo was at the top of his game. And, I argued, my best friend had a dog named Marino long after former Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Dan Marino retired. However, my wife would prove to be almost psychic, as Romo would have a fantastic 2014 season…and it would effectively be his last.

Who could’ve known?

Dogs named Marino and cats named Romo (well, almost). I relay this story simply to illustrate the emotional attachment we often have for our favorite players and the difficulty many of us have “letting go.” I know I did. Hail, Romo!

While some fans can put these attachments aside, I know I’m far from alone in this sentiment. It’s difficult not to view key veterans as the identity of one’s favorite team; anyone who cheered for the early 90’s Cowboys knows how difficult it can be to say goodbye to the star players who brought us so many great memories.

While we have those players in memories (and jerseys), it’s the first year or two of them being removed from the team that stings.

The current Cowboys roster does not have many fan favorites left, at least not on the veteran side. Here is a look at three remaining veteran players loved by many, yet could be bid farewell after this season.

These three fan favorites could be gone as soon as the 2018 season. They represent 3 of the top 6 salaries of the current Dallas Cowboys salary cap.

#1: Jason Witten, Tight End (age 35, 14 seasons)

Undoubtedly, the biggest remaining veteran Cowboy star and definitely Hall of Fame bound. Yes, the seemingly immortal tight end just signed a four-year contract extension. But with no guaranteed money, this was a simple business move to give the Cowboys the flexibility to restructure.

No doubt Jason will retire a Dallas Cowboy. A personal opinion; this is Witten’s final season. If Dallas falls short of a Superbowl, he may not wish to campaign again. And if the Cowboys do win it all this year, even better to ride off into the sunset as a world champion.

#2: Sean Lee, Linebacker (age 30, 7 seasons)

Such a dynamically talented linebacker who we love to see terrifying the opposing offenses. Often during games it seems as if commentators repeat his name after his every down. But Lee has missed 37 games due to injuries (and this includes the entire 2014 season). Without the injury bug, I believe this linebacker would be another eventual Hall of Famer.

Lee is still tremendously effective, but is likely one soft tissue tear away from retirement. Even if he remains healthy, at 30 years old one could expect the player to start slowing down. Sean Lee is signed through 2020 with a stiff guarantee, approximately $16 million, but this contract will likely not prevent the Cowboys from parting ways with him if his production starts to slide.

And speaking of large contracts, this brings us to…

#3: Dez Bryant, Wide Receiver (age 28, 7 seasons)

Yes, I know, even contemplating the parting of ways with the Cowboys most animated player will bring out cat-calls. However, there are industry whispers that the electrifying receiver has under-produced in contrast to his $70 million dollar contract. And there is another concern. Through the years, many have felt that Bryant is one public mistake away from suspension territory. This is incredibly unfair, but in today’s NFL, front offices have every reason to be skittish.

The 2018 draft should see the Cowboys fully utilizing “the best player available” approach. I believe they will take a high-profile receiver early, providing one is available.

Next: Dallas Cowboys: Five bold predictions for 2017

Unless Bryant has another statistically sub-par year as judged by his own organization, I don’t actually believe this is his last season as a Cowboy. I do believe that the Dallas Cowboys front office is becoming less sentimental and more business savvy.

Considering Dallas was willing to pay the price for Romo’s release, the organization has shown that they won’t hesitate to move on from any contract that does not fit their current plans.