Should the Dallas Cowboys draft Sean Lee’s successor?

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13: Sean Lee #50 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13: Sean Lee #50 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

After two Pro Bowl seasons, injuries again plagued linebacker Sean Lee in 2017. Should the Dallas Cowboys draft his successor now?

Last season, Sean Lee proved just how valuable he is to this current Dallas Cowboys team through his absence. The veteran linebacker missed five games due to injury in 2017. And the Cowboys lost all but one of those contests without Lee in the lineup.

Unfortunately, this revelation was two fold. The Cowboys defense suffers greatly when Lee is not on the field. And that’s certainly a tribute to the veteran’s leadership, play and intelligence. Lee is the quarterback of the defense after all. But his absence also highlighted the Cowboys lack of depth at the position behind him.

Both Jaylon Smith and Anthony Hitchens attempted to hold the Cowboys linebacker corps together in Lee’s absence. But Smith was essentially a rookie in 2017, having been sidelined his entire first season in Dallas rehabbing from a devastation knee injury he suffered while in college that nearly ended his professional career before it even began.

As for Hitchens, the former fourth rounder likely had his best overall performance since his rookie year. But he also suffered a knee injury just prior to the start of the season that postponed his debut in 2017 until Week Five.

Beyond Smith and Hitchens, the Cowboys had a group of role players that had to be plug and played significant minutes at time last year. Names like Justin Durant, Damien Wilson, Kyle Wilber and Justin March-Lillard (special teams only).

But the fact is none of the above are near good enough to replace someone like Sean Lee. The closest might be Hitchens, who is currently a free agent and is expected to be far too expensive to re-sign this offseason. Smith might be that player someday, but he’s currently seen as the future of the middle linebacker position in Dallas, not on the weakside where Lee currently resides.

Lee will turn 32-years old in July. And he has an extensive injury history that plagued him early on in his career and reared it’s ugly head again in 2017. Considering those factors, the Cowboys have to seriously think about finding someone to groom under Lee who can take his place in the lineup if the aging veteran is forced to miss more games in the future.

If the Cowboys are able to somehow re-sign Hitchens this offseason, maybe you could justify holding off on drafting a linebacker high to replace Lee. Instead, maybe taking a flier on a mid-to-late rounder to develop for a couple seasons. I believe that was the plan when Dallas drafted both Hitchens and Wilson in the fourth round in back-to-back drafts.

Next: Dallas Cowboys - All-Time Best Defensive Players By Position

If the Dallas Cowboys are unable to re-sign Anthony Hitchens, and he leaves in free agency this offseason, Dallas has a big problem on their hands. They may have to turn to the 2018 NFL Draft to solve it. And a quality linebacker who can be a potential starter on day one will be costly.