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Report: The Dallas Cowboys will not be picking up Leighton Vander Esch’s fifth-year option for 2022

The former first-round pick is officially in a contract year.

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Today is May 3rd which means that the fourth will be with us tomorrow, and also with you, but this particular day has a notable significance when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys.

Earlier in the offseason the NFL announced that today, May 3rd, is the deadline for teams to pick up the fifth-year options on 2018 first-round draft picks. You will recall that the Dallas Cowboys selected linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the first round that year and for what it’s worth his option value for 2022 is $9.145M.

While it already felt questionable at best as to whether or not the team would pick up his option the fact that they drafted two linebackers in the first 115 picks over this past weekend just about finalized their intentions.

As today is finally here so is our official answer. The Dallas Cowboys will not be picking up Leighton Vander Esch’s fifth-year option for 2022 which means that he is now entering a contract year in the 2021 season.

You never want to end up in a situation where you don’t pick up a first-rounder’s fifth-year option in today’s day and age and it is definitely unfamiliar territory for the Cowboys. The only players who didn’t have the switch flipped for them since the 2011 CBA were Morris Claiborne (who re-signed with the team on a one-year deal during the 2016 season which incidentally would have been his option season) and Taco Charlton (who was cut during his third season with the team).

Vander Esch played incredibly well during his rookie season and looked like a lock for the path that Cowboys first-rounders before him had followed themselves as far as option years went. Unfortunately his biggest issue has been staying on the field as he has only played in 35 of 48 possible games over his first three seasons.

To slightly defend Leighton a bit, the finances of this matter are a bit unique starting here in 2021. The 2018 first-round draft class is the first to have their fifth-year options fully guaranteed which makes it an even more difficult decision for the Cowboys to make.

For what it’s worth Leighton shared a photo of himself on Instagram over the weekend with the caption “Focused. ONE. MISSION.” so perhaps he felt a certain way about his team drafting two extremely versatile players at his position in Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox. Or perhaps it’s just coincidence.

It is now time for Leighton Vander Esch to have a season that forces the Dallas Cowboys to either try and re-sign him outright in 2022 (or beforehand as the report indicates the team would apparently like to do) or watch him leave to another team. For what it’s worth if he does wind up leaving (especially after a nice 2021 season) he could ultimately net the team a 2023 compensatory pick.

As it has been said before, football is ultimately a business.


Do you agree with the Cowboys’ decision to NOT pick up Leighton Vander Esch’s fifth-year option?

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