More than any other spot on the roster, the 2021 NFL Draft brought change to the Cowboys linebacker position group. It’s true that the Cowboys selected three secondary players, but they could be split among cornerback and safety and it’s unclear how much playing time they will be getting. Linebacker, on the other hand, is likely to have a new starter and a new situational player in Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox, not to mention the free agency acquisition of Keanu Neal.
With all this change, could further change be on the way? The Cowboys had the opportunity to sign their 2018 first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch to a fifth-year extension, which they declined. That isn’t definitely a goodbye from the Cowboys, they could still bring back LVE on a cheaper deal, but when you combine that with the drafting of Micah Parsons, LVE’s future in Dallas is very, very cloudy.
A good 2021 season for Vander Esch would go a long way toward helping push the Cowboys to retain him. But there could be another option. This one comes courtesy of a suggestion from a Pittsburgh Steelers site.
Getting Devin Bush back as the ‘Mack’ linebacker this year will certainly be big for Pittsburgh’s defense, but the team has been needing to find a permanent, full-time upgrade next to him for years now. Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch could be exactly what the Steelers need.
The Steelers had a clear and obvious infatuation with Leighton Vander Esch coming out of Boise State in the 2018 NFL Draft. While Pittsburgh typically doesn’t target non-Power 5 school players in the first round, they certainly would have made an exception for LVE.
The collegiate star not only would have filled a huge void for the Steelers at linebacker, but he would have given them a big, powerful, athletic presence in the middle of their football field who can play the run, blitz, and cover.
The Cowboys may be reluctant to move LVE because of the newness of Parsons to the NFL game, and the lack of serious depth after the retirement of Sean Lee and the departure of Joe Thomas. Vander Esch is someone who can play across the linebacker positions and is certainly not the worst option as a starter. There are plenty of good reasons to hold on to him for 2021.
The counter argument is that if you are going to let him go after the 2021 season, get something for him now. Again, it’s not certain that the Cowboys won’t try to re-sign him to a deal after the season, but they have certainly restocked the linebacker room with young talent.
As with most of these matters, it all comes down to compensation. What could the Cowboys get for Vander Esch?
Knowing that they only have one more year with him, Dallas could be looking to move on from Vander Esch very soon, and with Parsons and Cox now on the roster, LVE becomes mostly expendable. In all likelihood, it probably wouldn’t take more than a mid-round draft choice to obtain the talented linebacker at this point. In addition, Vander Esch has a base salary of just $2.1 million, according to Over the Cap, because he is still on his rookie contract.
What level of compensation would it take for you to trade Vander Esch?