Cowboys evaluating all possible Lee replacements, including Urlacher, Vilma

Brian Urlacher (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

brian urlacher

Brian Urlacher (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

We don't blame the Dallas Cowboys for doing their due diligence for replacing the irreplaceable Sean Lee on their already harried and shorthanded defense. 

ESPN's Werder is well connected with the Cowboys and surely has a finger on the team's pulse here. But "evaluating" and moving forward appear to be two different things in this case.

Any tape the Cowboys might have watched would have come from the 2012 season or earlier, unless the team ran a continuous loop of Jonathan Vilma's 12 defensive snaps from his one game last season with the New Orleans Saints. Brian Urlacher was out of football last season, working as an analyst for Fox Sports 1, and Vilma had just that one brief cameo in 2013 amid injuries before being dropped like a bad habit this offseason in a salary purge by the Saints.

Are either viable options? Likely not. And you know what? Despite Vilma only being 32 and Urlacher, who is now 36, having scheme familiarity with Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's system, the Cowboys likely would be smart to go in another direction.

Look, we get it: It really stinks that Lee is gone and that the dropoff — no matter who takes his place — is likely going to be pretty sizeable. There are only a handful of linebackers in the NFL with Lee's coverage ability, and they are not roaming the streets looking for jobs. If the Cowboys want to go old and cheap, then someone such as Paris Lenon, who helped round out the Denver Broncos' defense en route to the Super Bowl, might be a savvy addition.

Otherwise, going young with the players on the roster might be the best option. Orie Lemon has kicked around for a bit. DeVonte Holloman, despite struggling after the preseason, at least has some upside. Fourth-rounder Anthony Hitchens only missed one college game and can move around a little despite great size. A few others — including seventh-rounder Will Smith, and a slew of undrafted rookies — will get looks, too.

We're likely talking about a two-down position here, so do the Cowboys want to waste that on an aged veteran who will bring no special-teams value to the table? Makes little sense to us.

Our unsolicited advice for the Cowboys: Take your lumps and ride a younger player at the position the way the Atlanta Falcons did last season when injuries crushed the linebacker spot. Yeah, they had a 4-12 season to swallow hard on. But that was not all the fault of guys such as Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu, two serviceable players with some kind of NFL futures who proved they can contribute while learning on the job.

- - - - - - -

Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

What to Read Next