Cowboys Won’t Pick-Up Fifth-Year Option On LB Leighton Vander Esch

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The Dallas Cowboys have all but announced their latest roster move, as the team is not going to exercise the fifth-year team option for linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.

Since Vander Esch won’t get his option picked up, he’ll become an unrestricted free agency next March and join the free agency class of 2022.

His option would have been worth $9.145 million in 2022. It was a smart move for the Cowboys to save that money and shop around in free agency.

That salary, guaranteed to Vander Esch regardless of skill, performance or injury, would be fairly steep in a 2022 season when the NFL’s salary cap will still be recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic fallout.

If Vander Esch can stay healthy, the Cowboys might be a lot more willing to keep him around, but the injuries have really stopped him from taking a step to the next level.

He played just nine games in 2019 while dealing with back concerns and then played 10 games in 2020 before fracturing his collarbone.

As a rookie, Vander Esch showcased his impact potential when at peak physical form, totaling 140 tackles, seven passes defensed and two interceptions.

Written by Matt Loede

Matt has been a part of the Cleveland Sports landscape working in the media since 1994 when he graduated from broadcasting school. His coverage beats include the Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Cavaliers. He's written three books, and won the "2020 AP Sports Stringer Lifetime Service Award."

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  1. I remember Troy Aikman saying this guy would be one of the greatest Cowboy players ever, or something along those lines, on air a couple years ago. He’s a good player but the back and neck issues are highly concerning in football. Staying healthy is a gift. It’s a miracle any of these guys can play such a position more than 2-3 years before their bodies are wrecked. Playing LB for one NFL game is like being in a car wreck 30-40 times in a 3 hour period.

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