FRISCO, Texas – The month of February is always the transition period from one season to the next. The 2019 season is in the rearview mirror, especially with a brand-new coaching staff in place.
The next step for the team is player personnel, which mostly takes place in March with the start of free agency. The first day of the new league year is March 18, although the Cowboys will have several other decisions to make before then, thanks to 25 unrestricted free agents.
Before we get too far down the road, let's take an overview at each position, finding out what they've got, what they need and some big decisions to make.
Today, we'll break down the linebacker position.
Coach In Charge: Scott McCurley
McCurley has worked alongside head coach Mike McCarthy since 2006, eventually serving as the Packers' defensive quality control coach. He played linebacker at the University of Pittsburgh.
"[Nailing down] scheme, down the road, is going to be easy. At the end of the day, we have to have the right mindset. We've got to teach skill development, mechanics, and the fundamentals. That's what's going to win you games. Even in this day and age with all the schemes, we'll have answers for that. But we've got to get them trained up the right way fundamentally and that'll get them through pretty much anything we face."
Biggest Question: What is Sean Lee's Status?
On Monday, it was reported that Lee has officially decided to play another year. However, he will be an unrestricted free agent in March, so it's not a given that he returns to the Cowboys. Lee has spent 10 seasons in Dallas and the Cowboys would likely continue to value him as a contributor and mentor to Smith and Vander Esch. It's not likely that Lee would want to switch teams at this point in his career, but at this point, he is set to be a free agent in March.
What They Have: Two Cornerstones
Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch represent the present and future of the Cowboys' linebacking core. A concerning neck injury sidelined Vander Esch the final five games of last season, but with him entering his third year and Smith under contract through 2025, the team hopes the two young players will produce multiple Pro-Bowl caliber seasons whether the Cowboys play a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.
Immediate Need: Depth
Depth was a concern at linebacker for Dallas last season with a rash of injuries popping up at various points in the season. Five of their linebackers from 2019 are free agents. The Cowboys will likely look to the draft and free agency for linebackers that can play meaningful snaps if called upon.