The Cowboys have options at middle linebacker, and owner Jerry Jones admits is hopeful one of them steps up so the organization doesn't have to sign a veteran street free agent.
"No, I’m not confident," Jones said Tuesday. "There is a good chance we will be able to stay within the personnel we’ve got, but I don’t want to preclude anything, because a lot of the evaluation of where we are, that is going on right now as well as when we get to training camp. It also has to do with any circumstances that may come up away from the team. all of that is a given. If we had to play with the players we’ve got, I feel good that we could line up against San Francisco [in the season opener]."
The Cowboys started four players at middle linebacker last season, with Ernie Sims, Justin Durant and DeVonte Holloman all getting starts in Lee's absences last year. Durant, Holloman and rookie Anthony Hitchens are candidates to start there this season.
The Cowboys concede they will miss Lee, but they have been without him before. He has missed 18 games in his career.
"It's disappointing to lose any key player out there, but certainly he’s a very key player for us," Jones said. "But we’ve had to get used to playing without him, so I can’t say it’s a complete shocker that we’re going to be lining up the first part of the season and playing without him because we have had in our plans for the last several years what if you lose a guy like him in the middle of the season or down near the end of the season. As much as we’ll miss him, we’ll go on, and I’m confident we’re going to line up and do well at our linebackers, one way or the other. I don’t have the answers on how we’re going to get there. Some of it is going to have to develop with some of these guys who are here and how they progress in training camp."
-- Charean Wililams