The Dallas Cowboys decided against picking the fifth-year option for Leighton Vander Esch. It seems that the franchise from Dallas doesn’t have enough salary-cap space and that they aren’t ready to risk giving a big contract with the player who recently had two tough injuries.
Even though Vander Esch is one of the best linebackers in the league when healthy, and one of the top contributors to the Cowboys’ game, Jerry Jones and his crew won’t pick his fifth-year option for 2022.
The 25-year old player had one nasty neck injury in 2019, once he had to undergo surgery that would repair the tissue around the nerve. On the 2020 opener, Vander Esch broke his collarbone, which would further extend his injury problems.
Due to all this, the Cowboys believe that it might be best to test the player before making some moves regarding the long-term contract offer.
What is also one of the bigger reasons for Dallas’s decision is the fact that Vander Esch’s fifth-year option would cost the franchise $9.1 million. That is too much, having in mind that they already struck deals in the past with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot, Amari Cooper, etc. A new agreement for Vander Esch would demand a serious financial gymnastic.
The Cowboys’ executives told in the meantime that they want to have the player after 2022, but that his future in the teams would depend upon the future performances.
Vander Esch amazed everyone during his rookie season, setting a new franchise rookie record with 176 tackles. Over the next two years, he played just 19 games combined, with significantly lower stats. In the rookie year, Dallas LB became a Second-team All-Pro, a Pro-Bowl player, and a PFWA All-Rookie Team member. The Cowboys drafted him as the 19th overall pick from Boise State.
Dallas increased the competition on the LB position adding Micah Parsons, the first-round pick, and Jabril Cox in the fourth. This is an open challenge for Vander Esch, who will have to be 100% prepared and healthy to defend his position in the starting lineup.
If he fails to show up and repeat the stats from 2018, the Cowboys will probably let him explore the market. So far, there haven’t been any speculations about what might happen next following today’s news. Vander Esch didn’t answer any questions.