As the Dallas Cowboys face the inevitable roster turnover that comes with NFL free agency, many players that were on the team will find new places to call home. Several players on the defensive side of the ball are up for new contracts. Most notably, Leighton Vander Esch. The former first-round pick of 2018 experienced a career renaissance last season after signing a modest deal to return to Dallas.
Vander Esch’s market should pick up in the next few weeks and it may be a matter of when, not if, that he’ll price himself out of the Cowboys’ pockets. There are a few options who could fill the void currently on the roster such as Damone Clark who played admirably well for someone who missed all of training camp and much of the regular season.
The team is also developing Jabril Cox and last year’s sixth-round pick, Devin Harper. Still, if the Cowboys do look to fill Vander Esch’s spot after his possible departure with outside help, there’s one player who could be both productive and inexpensive for the team.
NFL Exp: 7 yrs.
Anthony Walker would make for an excellent low-budget pickup for Dan Quinn and the Dallas defense. Walker, a fifth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2017, isn’t flashy or going to show sideline-to-sideline speed. However, what he does provide is a presence as an inside linebacker who plays downhill between the tackles and does the dirty work. While Dallas has tried that role with Leighton Vander Esch in the past, Walker is much more suited for it.
Walker is strictly more of a two-down player, as he isn’t much to write home about in terms of playing coverage. Yet, he is a sure tackler. At 6’1” and 235 lbs., he can be an interior run-stuffer and hopefully play behind a better combo of run-stuffing defensive tackles than what he had in Cleveland. Walker’s best season as a pro came in 2019 when he led the Colts in tackles with 124 for a missed tackle rate of only 8.1%
The caveat is Walker comes off an injury last year when he suffered a torn quadricep and was limited to three games. That said, Walker shouldn’t command a high price tag. According to Spotrac, his salary last year was 4.25M. That number should decrease, and his asking cost should be much cheaper this offseason. For most of his career, Walker has been largely healthy having played 14 games or more in four of his six NFL seasons.