Lissemore was a 7th round pick in 2010 and had 2 years (including this one) left on his rookie deal. The Cowboys have tacked on an extra 3 years, 6 million onto his deal, with 3.1 million guaranteed. This is the 2nd time in as many seasons that the Cowboys have attempted to get ahead of the curve and give a player an extension before they broke out because the team felt they were headed for a breakout year. Last year, they gave Orlando Scandrick a 5 year, 27 million dollar extension with 10 million guaranteed.
This deal is far less head scratching. For one, it’s far less money so they’re taking a far smaller risk if Lissemore doesn’t pan out like they think he will. Two, Lissemore is coming off a strong season as a situational player, whereas Scandrick struggled some on the slot in 2010, before getting his extension. For some reason, the Cowboys thought that made him a good bet to be a long term starter at cornerback.
However, just one year later they were proven wrong as Scandrick failed to take the next step and the team had to use a lot of resources to add two new cornerbacks in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne this offseason. Now Scandrick is stuck behind those two for the foreseeable future and the Cowboys are stuck being an average slot cornerback a lot of money yearly. In the opener, he played just 27 of 56 snaps, which is about what you can expect from him long term.
Lissemore, however, played very well as a situational player last year. In 2011, he had a 13.8 rating on just 283 snaps on ProFootballFocus. He wasn’t much of a pass rusher, but he had 18 solo tackles, 8 assists and 16 stops on just 119 run defense snaps, while missing only 2 tackles. He was ProFootballFocus’ 3rd rated 3-4 defensive end against the run, behind Ray McDonald and Glenn Dorsey. He played all over the line, both end spots and nose tackle, and will have a bigger role this season. We’ll see if the added playing time will help or hurt him, but I named him as my potential breakout player for the Cowboys early in the season.
Lissemore played 27 of 56 snaps in the opener and only one defensive lineman played more. He’ll probably see slightly fewer snaps when Jay Ratliff returns, but if he continues to play well, as he did in the opener, he could lock down that 3rd starting defensive lineman job next to Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff by season’s end, something they desperately need someone to do, and if he does that, he’ll end up being well worth this contract long term. If he doesn’t, it’s not a huge risk and Lissemore could still end up being a valuable rotational player.