The Cowboys could not resist selecting Micah Parsons with the No. 12 overall pick of the 2021 draft, despite their existing depth at linebacker. Parsons was widely regarded as the best off-ball LB in this year’s class, but recent losses along Dallas’ D-line have forced the team to move its top draft choice to DE, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes.
The club’s top pass rusher, DeMarcus Lawrence, will be sidelined for the next six to eight weeks due to a broken foot, and fellow DE Randy Gregory has found himself on the reserve/COVID-19 list, leading to an immediate need for reinforcements. Luckily, one of Parsons’ key attributes is his ability to get after opposing quarterbacks, and the Cowboys trained him as a designated pass rusher during offseason workouts.
Depending on how long Parsons remains at defensive end, and how successful he is in his new role, the transition could theoretically impact Dallas’ future plans. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is eligible for free agency following the 2021 campaign since the Cowboys declined his fifth-year option, and Gregory is also in his platform year. Dallas does not plan to entertain extension talks with either player during the season. Plus, free agent acquisition Keanu Neal is being deployed as a linebacker, and LB Jaylon Smith is signed though 2025, though the Cowboys could get out of his contract after this season if they choose.
In short, there are a lot of ways Dallas could go with respect to its front seven. Obviously, the expectation is that Parsons will eventually move back to the position that he was drafted to play, but a successful stint as a DE could change things and will only enhance his value.
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