The Dallas Cowboys have a decision to make concerning linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. They need to decide if they will be picking up his fifth-year option. Vander Esch was a first-round pick in 2018 so the Cowboys have the rights to exercise that option, but it will cost the team $9.145 million for his rights in 2022. That’s a lot of cash for an oft-injured linebacker who has been inconsistent.
The deadline to make that decision is May 3rd. It looks like the Cowboys will push right up to that deadline as Stephen Jones said today that they will wait until after the draft to make a determination. That will give them a small window between the draft and the deadline to work out their options.
Linebacker is an uncertain position for the Cowboys currently. They will have Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith this year, along with the hybrid linebacker/safety Keanu Neal. One player they won’t have is Sean Lee who retired earlier today. They also lost Joe Thomas in free agency so the depth is an issue, along with the inconsistent play from both Vander Esch and Smith.
The team has a couple of young linebackers in Luke Gifford and Francis Bernard, but it is the draft that will likely sway their decision-making in regards to picking up Vander Esch’s fifth-year option. If the Cowboys land a linebacker who they think could be the future, they may be more inclined to turn down the option and see what happens next offseason. They could also still dip into the free agent market to shore up the position.
It would be kind of a missed opportunity if the Cowboys don’t keep their 19th overall pick from the 2018 draft past the first contract. Initially it appeared that they had found a budding star with Vander Esch, but injuries and inconsistency has stripped some of the luster of his fast start. Now with the draft approaching, all options are still on the table.