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Proposed trades for Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch that include potential teams and draft pick compensation

Could Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch be on the trade block?

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NFL: DEC 23 Buccaneers at Cowboys Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There has been plenty of talk about trading some veterans from the Dallas Cowboys roster this offseason. Both Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have been identified as players who could be on the move based on performance, contracts, and recent addition of new linebackers. Bleacher Report goes one step further and makes proposed trades for each player including potential teams and draft pick compensation.

One, or both, of Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch could certainly be expendable for the Cowboys considering their offseason moves. With the free-agent addition of Keanu Neal and the influx of youth via the 2021 NFL Draft, Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox, the Cowboys suddenly have a cupboard full of potential starting linebackers. Who fits where though has yet to be determined.

Due to the numbers at the LB position, the Cowboys could very well entertain offers for either Smith or LVE. So what are the proposed trades?

Potential landing spots and compensation for Leighton Vander Esch


Offer: 2023 3rd-Round-Pick for Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch

The defensive remake for the Cleveland Browns isn’t over if the team can still find possible upgrades in free agency or the draft.

Leighton Vander Esch of the Dallas Cowboys might fit the bill too considering his team just drafted a possible replacement in the top 10 with Micah Parsons.

Any denying Vander Esch could be had for trade is hard to believe given Dallas’ current roster and the declining of his fifth-year option. The 2018 first-round pick hasn’t reliably been on the field over the last two seasons but has flirted with living up to expectations when on it.

In Cleveland, Vander Esch would be a starter-caliber presence with big upside for the future, which is quite a value for what could go down as a mid-round pick via trade.


Offer: LB Leighton Vander Esch for Bengals 2022 3rd-Round Pick

Right along those same lines, Dallas might want to at least float their former first-round pick in trade proposals.

With Parsons and Jaylon Smith about to lock down the lion’s share of the snaps at linebacker and attendance such an issue for Vander Esch, it might be in the team’s best long-term interests to get something in return for his eventual departure now that his fifth year has been declined.

It helps that rebuilding teams like the Bengals will likely jump at any chance to add high-upside talent for the future. The Bengals have Logan Wilson and others on the roster already, but nobody with first-round upside like Vander Esch.

While giving up on a first-rounder this early isn’t ideal, Dallas has already signaled it’s in the cards, and it would be merely the last revamping move after last year’s miserable debacle for the unit in a new scheme.

Of the two, Leighton Vander Esch arguably makes the most sense if the Dallas Cowboys were indeed looking to trade one of their vet linebackers. With him entering a contract year due to Dallas’ decision not to pick up his fifth-year option, it might be wise on their part to try to get some draft compensation instead of letting him walk as a free agent at the end of the season. There are reasons to keep him around, but a 2022 third-round draft pick could be enough for a team like the Cincinnati Bengals to pry him away.

Potential landing spots and compensation for Jaylon Smith


Offer: 2022 Second-Round pick for Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

Owners of the league’s most extensive rebuild, the Houston Texans need to work the phones more than any other team in the hunt for talent.

Given the understood desperation of Houston’s predicament, the Texans will probably have to end up overpaying for anything they do. That could be mitigated a bit by going to a team like Dallas and offering to inhale a whale of a contract.

Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith is a good example. Dallas just added a first-round linebacker and still rosters Vander Esch, so offering to take Smith’s six-year contract with the $68.4 million signed in 2019 might sound pretty appealing to Dallas.

Granted, Smith was a dud in Dallas’ new system last year to the tune of a 54.2 Pro Football Focus grade, but if Houston believes he’ll get back to form in its defense, the asset sacrifice and contract acquired will be worth the risk.


Offer: 2022 2nd-Round Pick for Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

Matthew Stafford’s arrival means the Los Angeles Rams hope improved firepower on the offensive side of the ball can carry along the defense for a contention ride.

But the trade market might have a way to help that Rams defense improve, too.

If the Rams wanted to upgrade the linebacker spot behind the Aaron Donald-led defensive line, for example, they could be another team that hits up Dallas about Jaylon Smith.

Down season or not in a new scheme last year, Smith still has some huge upside and would be an upgrade on guys like Micah Kiser, who had a 40.0 PFF grade last season. In fact, it would be pretty fun to see him spread his wings behind a player like Donald in what would be suddenly improved surroundings, provided the Rams are comfortable coughing up a big asset to make the trade happen.

While LVE is the player in a contract year, Jaylon Smith carries a higher price tag because of contract extension he signed not too long ago with the Cowboys. Unfortunately for him, his production isn’t matching that contract which could put him on the trade block. If the Cowboys could get a 2022 second-round draft pick while also dumping the majority of his contract it might be a dream come true for them. But, would a team really be willing to give up that much draft capital? That’s the real question here.

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