The 2021 NFL Draft is officially in the books and there is a lot to like, or not like, about what the Dallas Cowboys did. Ultimately this class will be headlined by linebacker Micah Parsons as he is the first-round pick. If you asked an average fan what their favorite pick was, though, you would likely get a different linebacker answer in Jabril Cox.
Considering the Cowboys took linebackers at picks 12 and 115, it is safe to say that they felt like the position needed a re-tooling entering the 2021 season. While it is not ideal that this is the case considering they used a second- and first-round pick on the position over the course of the five previous drafts, acknowledging sunk costs is more responsible than just trying to live with them.
Drafting Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox might as well have been the Cowboys flying a banner over all of our heads that noted their intention to change how they operate at linebacker. While it is possible that they see this as a slow burn of a change, there is no question that change is indeed what’s coming.
This topic is particularly relevant this weekend because it is the last one that the Cowboys have to decide on whether or not they are going to pick up the fifth-year option for the last linebacker that they took in the first round, Leighton Vander Esch.
There is a weird irony to drafting a linebacker at the beginning of this specific weekend but the chips fell where they did. The Cowboys have until Monday to decide whether or not they are going to lock in Leighton Vander Esch’s option for 2022 (which exceeds $9M and is fully guaranteed). Stephen Jones is acting like they are still considering it, but the writing is on the wall.
Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones on whether team to exercise fifth-year option on LB Leighton Vander Esch: “We’ve been so focused on the draft. We’ll obviously get our hands around that in short order.” Expectation is no option. LBs Micah Parsons, Jabril Cox added this weekend in draft.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) May 2, 2021
Stephen really expects people to believe that the Cowboys haven’t made up their minds here? Are we really supposed to believe that the Cowboys are going to make this decision in less than two days and not buy the evidence that is Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox (not to mention Keanu Neal, who Dan Quinn specified will remain a linebacker)?
It feels inevitable that one of Leighton Vander Esch or Jaylon Smith will be elsewhere in 2022, despite Stephen’s best efforts. A true and total answer will be found on Monday, but for now we can read the obvious tea leaves.