Cowboys Decline Leighton Vander Esch’s Fifth-Year Option, According To Agent Ron Slavin - CBSDFW Staff, CBS DFW
This was inevitable after the drafting of two linebackers.
The Dallas Cowboys won’t be picking up the fifth-year contract option of former first round pick Leighton Vander Esch. His agent, Ron Slavin, told ESPN of the team’s plans Monday which would allow the linebacker to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2021 season.
Vander Esch has missed 13 games due to injury over the past two seasons and that history is likely the main reason for the decision. In 2019, Vander Esch suffered a neck injury that required surgery and in 2020 he broke his collarbone causing him to miss six games. His best season came in his rookie year when he totaled 140 tackles, two interceptions and seven passes defensed after being selected with the 19th overall pick in that year’s first round.
The Cowboys have already locked fellow linebacker Jaylon Smith in to a five-year deal that runs through the 2024-25 season. The team then selected linebacker Micah Parsons with the 12th overall pick in this year’s draft and added a second linebacker in LSU’s Jabril Cox in the fourth round (No. 115).
We won’t know how this draft’s rookies will pan out for a few years.
Parsons Pick: I’ve said for a while that he was one of my favorite players in this draft and it addressed the biggest long-term need. I think Parsons steps right in and will be one of the team’s top 2-3 defensive players.
Favorite Pick: Of course, I’m going to love the Bohanna selection. I’ve been asking for someone to clog up the middle like this. Even in the sixth round, he’s got a chance to contribute right away. Who else looks like him?
Best Value: Has to be Jabril Cox. I know the Cowboys wanted him closer to the second round. He adds instant depth at linebacker.
Not Sure About: There were some head-scratchers along the way but I’m not all there with the second-round pick. For a position that is a major priority, the Kelvin Joseph pick seems a little shaky considering he basically parted ways with two different schools. The Cowboys need him to step in and play right away but he hasn’t been someone that teams have been able to count on. Obviously the Cowboys are confident that they can.
Parsons Pick: Great pick. Cowboys got the best defensive player in the draft and at a position of great need when you consider how poorly the Cowboys played against the run last season. Carolina and Denver did the Cowboys a favor.
Favorite Pick: This one is easy. Getting Jabril Cox in the fourth round. Heck, wouldn’t have been mad at them if they had taken Cox in the second or third round. I’ll say it again, this team needed an infusion at linebacker, especially if they are going to dabble in more 3-4.
Best Value: Know this is a bit of a controversial pick, but getting Josh Ball, a potential swing tackle, and I mean for this year not for the future, in the fourth round is a steal if that works out. Don’t let the Marshall part of this fool you. He was starting at Florida State before his suspension by the school’s judiciary committee following aggressive behavior with his girlfriend as a freshman had him transferring and deciding not to return to Tallahassee.
Not sure about: No doubt, second-rounder Kelvin Joseph. He gets runs off by LSU and then transfers to Kentucky. Probably a first-round talent. Character issues drops him into the second, and my second-round pick can’t have character issues if I have designs of the corner becoming a step-in starter.
Could teams already be calling the Cowboys about Vander Esch?
In addition to being often injured, the Cowboys also drafted two highly-regarded linebackers in the 2021 NFL Draft in Penn State’s Micah Parsons and LSU’s Jabril Cox. Obviously, drafting two new linebackers doesn’t bode well for Vander Esch’s future in Dallas. That being said, The Kansas City Chiefs would be smart to check in on the Dallas linebacker’s availability.
The Chiefs did just draft a linebacker in Missouri’s Nick Bolton and while head coach Andy Reid did say that Bolton can play all three linebacker positions, he’s best suited as a middle linebacker whereas someone like Vander Esch can play the SAM role that was left behind by Damien Wilson who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency. Vander Esch has been one of the better coverage linebackers in the league when healthy as he earned an 81.0 overall coverage grade on 90+ targets in 2018 according to PFF. Vander Esch has also proven to be an efficient tackler in Dallas who would surely bolster Kansas City’s linebacker group.
Given Brett Veach’s love for former high-round picks and the fact Vander Esch wouldn’t be too expensive to acquire because he’s on a rookie deal and just had his option declined, fans should keep an eye on this one.
It’s also worth noting that Dallas could use some help on the offensive line and we all know the Chiefs have a plethora of offensive linemen and not all of them can make the team. Maybe the Chiefs could offer one of their depth pieces like Nick Allegretti or Laurent Duvernay-Tardif in a post June 1st trade if the team feels like he’s expendable? The Chiefs could always throw in a late-round pick, too.
This is going to be very interesting and fun!
The plan for Micah Parsons with the Dallas Cowboys doesn’t mean it’s wise.
On Monday, the Cowboys elected to not pick up Vander Esch’s fifth-year option, per NFL Network’s Jane Slater. That means that, after the 2021 season, Smith would be the only linebacker under contract aside from the rookies. And with Smith’s struggles, it’s also worth noting that the Cowboys could get out of his deal next offseason while saving $5 million and taking on $6.8 million in dead cap, per Spotrac.
When you take that into account and combine it with the fact that the Cowboys not only took Parsons in the first round but also used a mid-round pick on Jabril Cox out of North Dakota State, things are starting to take shape.
Dallas is reinventing the linebacker corps on the fly. They are getting the ultra-athletic Parsons in the fold as an immediate run-stuffer and blitzer who can develop into more while Cox can be the reliable coverage player. Given that Smith and Vander Esch have struggled to be a consistent duo, that would make sense as to why the Cowboys are thinking this way.
That being said, that doesn’t necessarily make the process smart. “Process over results” is a common mantra and it undoubtedly applies to team-building in some respect. So when there are obvious other weaknesses on the roster, that doesn’t mean reinventing something like this on the fly is the best course of action.
As of March 28th, they had risen as high as +2800 per Bet Online, but have come back to earth a little.
Dallas still remains the favorite to win the NFC East and are far and away the team from the division with the best odds to win the Super Bowl.
Washington Football Team +5000
New York Giants +5000
Philadelphia Eagles +6600
Odds to Win the NFC East
Dallas Cowboys +120
Washington Football Team +225
New York Giants +425
Philadelphia Eagles +550
A defensive heavy draft isn’t likely to move the needle much in the eyes of the bettors, but it’s surprising considering how much help the Dallas Cowboys needed on the defensive side of the football. Still, the team has a chance to win the NFC East and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
‘A basketball team’: Cowboys’ NFL draft haul foreshadows defensive remake under Dan Quinn - Jori Epstein, USA Today
It’s worked for him in the past so fingers crossed he can do it again.
Legion of Boom remake?
Several rookies said they understood what to expect from a Quinn defense.
“We’re both physical against tall receivers, and we’re smart,” Joseph said Friday night. “We’re playmakers, so we’re just going to put our techniques together and learn from each other.
“We’re fixing to do a lot of damage.”
Quinn fielded the questions: Can he recapture the Legion of Boom-caliber defense from his days coordinating Seattle? What about Cowboys fans who remember the Falcons’ dreaded Super Bowl loss after a 28-3 lead? Does Quinn envision Parsons’ role, likely pressuring in blitz packages while still being expected to cover, as the next iteration of Seattle’s Bruce Irvin and Atlanta’s Vic Beasley?
“I don’t want to say he’s like a Bobby (Wagner) or a Vic (Beasley) or this,” Quinn said. “He’ll see plenty of tape of players that I’ve coached at different spots, but I think it’s important for a player to develop their own identity and their own unique stuff.
“I want Micah’s identity to be Micah.”
The Cowboys’ drafted cornerbacks may come to learn that lesson. But at least the 6-4, 185-pound Wright hasn’t caught on yet. After rounding out Dallas’ five top-100 picks, Wright told reporters he considers himself a “more athletic and agile Richard Sherman.”
“Just his ability to slow the game down and kind of see all the pieces come together before the play even starts,” Wright said of the corner who stacked two of his three straight All-Pro seasons under Quinn’s tutelage. “We’re going to bring some life. More turnovers. And we’ll definitely get us to a championship.”
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