When the Dallas Cowboys drafted not one, but two linebackers in the 2021 NFL Draft, they started the clock on when they would be able to either sign Leighton Vander Esch to a long-term deal or trade him. On Monday the organization decided not to pick up LVE’s fifth-year option which now really leaves the Cowboys with one smart option. They need to try and find a trade partner and deal LVE before he steps foot on the field for the Cowboys again. Many are assuming that both he and Jaylon Smith could be moved, but as of right now the Cowboys are on the hook for Smith’s guaranteed salary of $9.8 million for 2021.
The Cowboys do have a potential out with Smith in 2022 which would have them taking a dead cap hit of $6.8 million according to Spotrac.com. So while the Cowboys figure out if Smith is a fit for Dan Quinn’s defensive scheme, they have to figure out how to move LVE and either get a player in return, say a cornerback that can come in and help this defense immediately or a high draft pick as compensation. Allowing LVE to step foot on a field is a big liability for the Cowboys who already know his injury history. They need to use the fact that right now he’s healthy because if he takes the field and gets injured their hopes of finding a trade partner goes up in flames.
The teams around the NFL know about the declined fifth-year option, Some may hold off while others could look to make a deal with the Cowboys in an effort to get ahead of the game and bring in a former first-round pick who has proven that he can play at a high level in this league. Hopefully, the Cowboys pick up the phone and are willing to listen to what they are offering because the worst thing they can do is allow a very good linebacker when healthy to hit free agency and get nothing in return. Time will tell which direction they plan to go but for LVE’s and the Cowboys sake, they need to get something done soon.