The Cowboys inked Lee, who is set to begin his fourth NFL campaign next month, to a six-year contract extension worth roughly $42 million, but could escalate as high as $51 million depending on play-time incentives.
Lee reportedly will get more than $16 million guaranteed over the life of the contract.
“I’m extremely excited. I’m blessed to be drafted by a great franchise like this,” Lee said Wednesday evening. “To have an opportunity to be here for a long time, hopefully we can compete for Super Bowls, it’s fantastic. I’m blessed to be here. I’m very grateful to the Joneses and the opportunity they’ve given me.”
Lee had one year remaining on the original four-year contract he signed as the No. 55 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. In three seasons, he has started 21 games, including just six last year when toe surgery cut his season short.
Injuries were certainly taken into consideration in negotiating the deal, which has a few play-time incentives to protect the Cowboys in case Lee misses more time due to injury.
“Obviously I’ve had injuries and I’ve said I need to find a way to stay on this field,” Lee said. “And the contract is extremely fair. If I’m on the field the whole year, I’ll be able to get paid. But if I do have injuries, it protects the Cowboys and I think that’s fantastic, especially with the injuries I’ve dealt with in the past. Hopefully I’ll find a way to be on the field every single year. That’s my goal. So I think it’s extremely fair.”
Currently, Jets linebacker David Harris is the highest-paid inside linebacker with an average salary of $9 million per season, followed by Cleveland’s D’Qwell Jackson at $8.5 million. Pittsburgh’s Lawrence Timmons makes $8.3 million per year, while Philly’s DeMeco Ryans is making $8 million annually. San Francisco Pro Bowler Patrick Willis averages $7.6 million per season. Lee is projected as an All-Pro in 2013 by NFL.com's Elliot Harrison.
If Lee can stay relatively healthy over the course of this deal, he will average about $8.5 million.
Immediately after signing the deal, Lee walked out of the Cowboys’ scouting department and personally thanked Tom Ciskowski, the club’s director of scouting and one of the biggest advocates in drafting him.
Lee is the Cowboys’ middle linebacker and centerpiece of the 4-3 scheme under new coordinator Monte Kiffin. He said he was extremely excited to get the deal finished before the start of the season.
“Its’ great to get it done and be able to focus on this year,” Lee said. “Focus on winning and focus on me being a better football player and staying on the field and staying healthy to help this team win.”
So with a hefty new contract, Lee had some big plans for his Wednesday evening.
“I’m going to get ready for practice tomorrow.”