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Cowboys, LB Sean Lee agree to six-year extension

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Sean Lee will remain the heart and soul of the Cowboys' defense for the near future. (USATSI)

The Cowboys and linebacker Sean Lee have agreed to a six-year extension, according to Lee's agent Mike McCartney. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reports that the deal averages $7 million annually, and it could reach $8.5 million based on playing-time escalators.

The new contract makes Lee the eighth-highest paid inside linebacker (on average), according to Spotrac.com, behind David Harris, D'Qwell Jackson, Lawrence Timmons, DeMeco Ryans, Patrick Willis, Paul Posluszny and James Laurinaitis.

Lee, drafted in the second round out of Penn State in 2010, played in only six games in 2012. He was lost for the season in late October after suffering a toe injury against the Panthers. He was the Cowboys' leading tackler when he landed on injured reserve.

The Cowboys are looking to rebound from an 8-8 record in 2012, and an improved defense will be a big part of it. This offseason, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was been replaced by Monte Kiffin, and so far owner Jerry Jones is pleased with what he has seen.

“He's the perfect combination of, not dumbing it down, but getting us at the right level of the playbook," Jones said of Kiffin back in May. "Having come from college, having had the background he's had, plus what we need, which was probably a reduced amount of things to do out there with the veteran players we have. That's not to criticize anybody. That's a common goal, a common criticism of coaches. But I think he's the ideal fit for that."

Through three preseason games, Jones remains impressed.

“We've got a chance to be a really top-flight defense if we can have those guys that we didn't have at the end of last year,” Jones said last week. “If we have those guys right there along with philosophically what we're doing, we're going to be better.”

So, with Lee locked up long term, who will be next on Jones' to-do list? Wide receiver Dez Bryant, linebacker Bruce Carter, and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher appear to be the early favorites.

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