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Dallas Cowboys sign Ernie Sims; Sean Lee goes on IR

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is not replaceable. But the Cowboys have to try anyway after learning Lee will miss the rest of the season with a toe injury.

The Cowboys' official website reported that the team signed former Detroit Lions first-round draft pick Ernie Sims on Wednesday after placing Lee (toe) on injured reserve. The Cowboys also placed punter Chris Johnson on injured reserve and signed safety Charlie Peprah.

Lee suffered a turf toe injury during Sunday's 19-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

"Sean Lee is a great football player," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said during Wednesday's news conference. "Anybody who watches our team can see that... It will certainly be a loss."

Dan Connor will replace Lee in the starting lineup, playing next to Bruce Carter. Sims has bounced around in his career and will try to help as a reserve, but there's just no way to mimic Lee's skill set.

One of the best run defenders in the NFL, Lee sets himself apart in coverage. He breaks up passes 20 yards down the seam thrown to receivers. He covers running backs and blows up plays in the backfield. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware might be the best Cowboys defender, but Lee was emerging as the defense's leader. He was playing at a first-team All-Pro level.

In a season when the Cowboys' offense is less explosive than ever, losing Lee is a devastating blow. 

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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