Less than a week away from the unofficial start of the 2022 season, the Dallas Cowboys seem to be set on rolling with what they have entering training camp. While the Cowboys may not have any glaring needs to address before the kickoff of camp, they could benefit from adding a player or two at a couple of positions. One of those would be the linebacker spot.
All-Pro Micah Parsons is fantastic, there’s no denying that, but with how much the second-year pro is going to rush the passer, it’s hard to call him a true “linebacker.” Parsons will likely play a hybrid role, leaving Leighton Vander Esch and Jabril Cox to get plenty of playing time as true linebackers.
Vander Esch did play much better during the second half of the season, ranking as the ninth-best interior linebacker according to PFF (via Aidan Davis).
But then the switch flipped. In weeks eight through 18, which is after the Dallas bye week, he was the ninth-ranked interior linebacker in the league according to PFF. In 11 weeks, which is a solid chunk of the season, he was better than names like De’Vondre Campbell, Demario Davis, Bobby Wagner, Jordan Hicks, and Anthony Barr. In case you were wondering, Micah Parsons was the number one ranked linebacker over this period.
Vander Esch still has had his fair share of issues in the past couple of seasons. The biggest being staying healthy and on the field, something Jabril Cox unfortunately was unable to do during his rookie year, playing in just seven games before suffering a torn ACL.
The Cowboys certainly could benefit from acquiring a capable linebacker from outside the organization. If they look to acquire one via trade, Deion Jones of the Atlanta Falcons could be a fit. Jones’ name was linked to the Cowboys in a recent article by Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report. Knox proposed the Cowboys deal a 2023 sixth-round pick to Atlanta in exchange for the linebacker.
Here’s what Knox had to say about why the deal makes sense for both sides.
Linebacker is a position Dallas could consider targeting ahead of Week 1. “Linebacker is definitely not as deep as last year, even though Jayron Kearse’s versatility to play down in the box has to be factored into the equation. So maybe that’s a position to watch,” Rob Phillips of the team’s official website wrote in late May.
If the Cowboys are willing to make a trade, Deion Jones of the Atlanta Falcons is a target who makes perfect sense, so long as Dallas is willing to take on some of the $24.9 million in dead money remaining on his contract. “Once a top-10 fixture, Jones appears to be on the trading block after six seasons in Atlanta,” ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler wrote.
Jones is recovering from shoulder surgery, but he’s a quality run-stopping linebacker with experience playing under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. He’s topped 100 tackles in each of the last three seasons and would bring system familiarity to the Cowboys linebacker corps. Dallas, which has $20.2 million in cap space remaining, could ease Atlanta’s financial burden while giving up minor draft capital and improving its run defense in the process.
Jones was just placed on the PUP list by the Falcons as he works his way back from shoulder surgery, but there seems to be a belief he will be ready by the time the season officially gets here.
At this point of his career, Jones probably isn’t the Pro-Bowl-caliber player we saw back in 2017, but he is still a solid contributor and could be an upgrade at the linebacker spot. Jones’ familiarity with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn would also be a big plus.
Jones has also shown the ability to consistently stay on the field, playing in 15 or more games in five of his six seasons in the league.
With the third-most remaining cap space in the NFL, the Cowboys would have no problem making the money work in a potential deal. They could help absorb some of Jones’ 2022 dead money in the trade, and then cut him after the season, saving $13,135,734, if they want out.
Overall, the Cowboys have enough cap space to make a pretty significant upgrade to their roster. If they are looking to spend and deciding what position group to add to, the linebacker spot seems like one of the best options.