The Dallas Cowboys already had a lot of holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball. Add middle linebacker to that list now.
An MRI revealed that Sean Lee tore his ACL in his left knee during the team’s OTA session Tuesday, and according to reports, he is expected to miss the entire 2014 season.
Nothing official from Cowboys, but league sources say Sean Lee told MRI confirms torn ACL in left knee and expected to miss 2014 season
— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) May 28, 2014
Sean Lee is a defensive MVP caliber football player when he is on the field. This kind of injury news is just nauseating.
The Cowboys had hoped to draft Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier in the first round before the Pittsburgh Steelers picked him a spot earlier. Ironically, Lee’s left knee buckled when he was pummeled over by offensive lineman Zack Martin, who was the pick because Shazier was off the board, during what was supposed to be a non-contact drill.
The Cowboys linebacker missed 15 games over the last two seasons due to wrist, neck and hamstring injuries. He’s never played a full 16-game slate. He finished 2013 with 68 tackles and four interceptions in 11 contests.
Anthony Hitchens is listed behind Lee on the depth chart. A fourth-round pick out of Iowa, Hitchens racked up 270 tackles in his career with the Hawkeyes. In his first action with the Cowboys, he left linebackers coach Matt Eberflus impressed.
“It’s a new position for him, new techniques for him and the first time in front of the huddle for him,” Eberflus said. “So he had to learn how to take control of the huddle, make the call, make the close calls, set the defense and all those types of things – so there’s a lot of things going on there for the young man in the first practice.”
There are some options the Cowboys could consider in free agency, too.
Former Jets and Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is reportedly “healthy and ready” after missing most of the 2013 season. But the 32-year-old linebacker hasn’t played a full season since 2010.
Former Colts linebacker Pat Angerer is coming off microfracture surgery on his knee, but is believed to be 100 percent. He tallied 63 tackles and an interception in 11 games for Indy last season.
Dan Connor was supposed to compete for the Giants’ starting middle linebacker job last season before getting beat out by Mark Herzlich. Connor played for Dallas in 2012, when the team used a 3-4, but believes he’s better suited for a 4-3.