Dallas Cowboys declining fifth-year choice on LB Leighton Vander Esch, agent says

FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys won’t decide up Leighton Vander Esch‘s fifth-year choice for 2022, in accordance with his agent, Ron Slavin, which is able to make the 2018 first-round decide an unrestricted free agent after the upcoming season.

Vander Esch’s damage historical past is the largest motive. He missed 13 video games over the previous two seasons, beginning with a neck damage that required surgical procedure in 2019 and price him seven video games. He missed six video games in 2020 due to a damaged collarbone. If the Cowboys had picked up the choice, the $9.1 million would have been absolutely assured.

Earlier than formally deciding to say no the choice, govt vice chairman Stephen Jones stated throughout draft weekend that the crew would nonetheless prefer to hold Vander Esch past 2021 if it didn’t add the fifth yr, however it would rely on how he performs.

Vander Esch’s greatest season got here as a rookie, when he was named to the Professional Bowl after the Cowboys chosen him No. 19 total. He had a franchise-rookie-record 176 tackles in 2018, together with 19 in opposition to the Philadelphia Eagles. He additionally had 5 quarterback pressures, six go breakups and two interceptions.

Some groups have been involved about his well being popping out of Boise State, however the Cowboys took the prospect. Nonetheless, he injured his neck in a clumsy collision with a teammate on a deal with in 2019 and had surgical procedure to alleviate a nerve situation. Then in final season’s opener, he suffered a damaged collarbone within the first quarter.

The Cowboys have linebacker Jaylon Smith beneath contract by 2025, however they’ll get out of his deal from a salary-cap perspective with out a lot of a difficulty. On this yr’s NFL draft, the Cowboys chosen linebacker Micah Parsons within the first spherical, however they imagine his versatility will permit them to make use of all three gamers on the similar time. The Cowboys additionally drafted LSU linebacker Jabril Cox within the fourth spherical.

Vander Esch is the third first-round decide to not have his choice picked up by the Cowboys for the reason that rookie pay system was put in place. Morris Claiborne, the 2012 first-round decide, signed a one-year cope with the Cowboys after the 2015 season, and 2017 first-rounder Taco Charlton was launched in 2019.

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