Sean Lee: Dream come true to play alongside Smith, Vander Esch

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Jaylon Smith is firmly entrenched at middle linebacker and Leighton Vander Esch became a Pro Bowl player at weak side linebacker as a rookie last season. Strong side linebacker Damien Wilson left for Kansas City in free agency.

So Sean Lee‘s return means a move to strong side linebacker, a position he has never played.

“That’s a dream come true to play with two young guys who love football,” Lee said of lining up alongside Vander Esch and Smith, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “All-Pro players who played unbelievable last year and really willed our team from a tough record early in the season, to snap back and get into the playoffs is really because of those guys, how well they played and the whole group, the whole defense.”

Smith and Vander Esch actually have never made All-Pro. Lee has.

But Smith and Vander Esch teamed up last season, in Lee’s absence, to form one of the league’s top linebacker duos.

The Cowboys will list Lee as the starter at strong side linebacker on their two-deep chart. That doesn’t mean Lee will start every game.

The Cowboys opened in their base defense only nine times last season, and Wilson played 27.9 percent of the defensive snaps.

Lee also is expected to spell Vander Esch and Smith.

He will have to stay healthy to contribute on the field, though. Lee missed nine games last season and has missed 51 in his career with injuries.