A lot on line for Cowboys, Sean Lee

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys knew they were taking a chance when they signed Sean Lee to a six-year extension last August because their middle linebacker had yet to play a full season.

The Cowboys gave Lee a $10 million signing bonus and guaranteed him $16 million, but they bought themselves some protection in the contract, which covered Lee’s injury history. And Lee realized he needed to prove he could stay healthy to cash in fully.

For the contract to go from great to excellent, Lee had to play in 80 percent of the snaps in 2013 or ’14 to gain an extra $1.5 million on his 2015 base salary of $2.5 million. Having missed five games and parts of seven last year with hamstring and neck injuries, Lee did not reach the 80 percent threshold.

If he plays in 80 percent of the snaps in 2015-18, his base salaries in the following seasons would increase by $2 million. He is currently set to earn base salaries of $3 million in 2016 and $7 million from 2017-19.

That would put the maximum value of Lee’s deal at $51 million.

The base value of the deal is $42 million.

The Cowboys would very much be willing to pay the max value of Lee’s contract because of how important he is to their defense and hope Tuesday’s knee injury is nothing more than a minor scare.

Until they get the test results on his knee, they’ll just have to wait.