Breaking: Cowboys decline Leighton Vander Esch’s fifth-year option

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Matthew Lenix
·2 min read
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There’s been much speculation about the long term future of linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with the Dallas Cowboys. His fifth-year option for 2022 wasn’t expected to be picked up, but like anything else, it’s about waiting to see how things pan out.

With the 3:00 pm Central deadline approaching, the Cowboys put all the questions to rest as they have informed Vander Esch’s agent that his option of $9.145 million won’t be exercised.

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Vander Esch’s time in Dallas has taken an unpleasant turn since his fantastic rookie season in which he led the team with 140 tackles and was named a second-team All-Pro. He’s missed 13 games the last two seasons (seven in 2019, six in 2020) due to neck, collarbone, and ankle injuries. Over that span, he has eight fewer tackles combined than his first year on the field.

The Cowboys did a great job covering their bases at linebacker since the end of last season. In free agency, they added Keanu Neal who will move to linebacker in Dan Quinn’s scheme instead of his normal position at safety.

In the first round of the 2021 NFL draft Dallas selected Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, considered by many to be the best defensive player coming out of the collegiate ranks. On Day 3, they added what could be one of the biggest steals of the draft by taking LSU’s Jabril Cox who many had a second-round grade on.

Heading into the 2021 season, Vander Esch will now be in a contract year. He will hope that his body holds up so he can return to form and cash in on a lucrative deal before the 2022 campaign comes about.

If Vander Esch turns back the clock to his old ways he’ll be in an enjoyable position entering the free market. However, the Cowboys are prepared to move forward if that’s not the case with the moves they’ve made at the linebacker spot.