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Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys reach contract extension

The Dallas Cowboys know they have one of the best young linebackers in football. The team made sure on Wednesday that Sean Lee remains a Cowboy for a very long time.

Nick Eatman of the team's official website first reported that Lee was in the process of signing a six-year contract extension with the team.'s Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer reported that Lee's contract is for $7 million per year, according to a source who has seen the deal. Breer added that escalators can take it to $51 million in new money over six years, via a source involved in the negotiation. Lee has to play 80 percent of the team's snaps to reach those escalators, which is notable considering his  struggles with injuries.

"Obviously I've had injuries and I've said I need to find a way to stay on this field," Lee told the Cowboys' official website. "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," Lee added. "That's my goal. So I think it's extremely fair."

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has made so many big-ticket deals that have come back to haunt him over the years. Too often, he has overrated his own players. This contract, however, looks like a bargain. Before he was hurt last year, Lee could stake a claim as the best middle linebacker in football. His range, ability to read plays and coverage skills help set him apart. Lee and Bruce Carter form perhaps the most exciting young linebacker duo in the NFL.

Critics will point out that Lee hasn't played 16 games in an NFL season yet, but he missed just three games combined in his first two years. Even if Lee hits all his escalators in the deal, this contract could go down as a huge bargain for a Pro Bowl-caliber player in his prime.

With all the dead money on Dallas' salary-cap books, Jones could use a bargain like that.

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