Just about everything comes to an end and time in the NFL is no exception. There comes a time in every players career when for whatever reason things have come to a head with their current team. It doesn’t matter if they’re merely special teams players or former Pro Bowlers, there’s no favoritism once that expiration date finally arrives.
Today we’re going to identify and discuss three former Pro Bowl players who could be playing their final season with the Dallas Cowboys. Circumstances are of course different for each player, but in the end all three are similar in that their expiration dates could all come to an end when the Cowboys finally close the books on the 2022 season.
LB Leighton Vander Esch
Leighton Vander Esch last made the Pro Bowl in 2018 as a rookie. Since then he’s struggled with injuries and failed to play up to those standards. Because of that, the Dallas Cowboys declined his fifth-year option one year ago, but somewhat surprisingly decided to re-sign him to a one-year deal (like they did Morris Claiborne). Considering he’s basically on a one-year rental, LVE is the most obvious former Pro Bowl player who is more than likely playing his last season with the Cowboys.
Unfortunately, No. 55 is in a bit of a Catch 22 situation heading into 2022 with the Dallas Cowboys. If he plays like he did as a rookie in 2018, and returns to his Pro Bowl form, he likely plays himself out of Dallas’ price range in free agency. On the flip side, if he doesn’t play well it’s almost a guarantee his time in blue and silver is over. With all of that in mind, you may want to get used to the idea The Wolf Hunter will be playing elsewhere in 2023.
RB Ezekiel Elliott
Zeke is a three-time Pro Bowler (2016, 2018, 2019) with five years remaining on his contract. Because of that, it’s kind of hard to imagine 2022 could be his last in Dallas, and yet, that could be the position he finds himself in.
The way his contract was constructed, the Cowboys actually have an out in 2023. If they want to move on, the salary cap hit would be roughly $12 million, creating approximate $5 million in space. A post-June 1 cut would spread that cap hit over two years, saving about $11 million.
In all honesty, if it wasn’t for Zeke’s inflated contract as one of the top paid running backs, we wouldn’t even be talking about his expiration date with the Cowboys possibly coming to an end after this season. Yes, his production has dipped a bit over the past few years, but he’s also played through injuries and never missed a game during that time span either. But, money speaks in the NFL and that could be No. 21’s earlier than expected undoing in Dallas.
LT Tyron Smith
Tyron Smith finds himself in a little bit of a different situation than either Leighton Vander Esch or Ezekiel Elliott. The eight-time Pro Bowler (2013-2019, 2021) isn’t entering a contract year like LVE or seen a dip in production while playing on an inflated contract like Zeke either. The only real problem with the Cowboys starting left tackle is his inability to remain healthy for an entire season. But, that little red flag could be why 2022 is his last in Dallas.
2015 was the last time No. 77 started entire season. It’s almost a continual thing to say he’s all but guaranteed to miss a few games each year. With his continual battle with the injury bug and the fact Dallas may have drafted his heir apparent in the first-round this year (Tyler Smith) Tyron’s days with the Cowboys could be ticking down pretty quickly. Depending on the season goes for him this year, his future in Dallas could be hanging in the balance.