Cowboys To Re-Sign Leighton Vander Esch

The Cowboys have brought back Donovan Wilson and agreed to acquire Stephon Gilmore from the Colts. They have not forgotten about Leighton Vander Esch, it appears.

Dallas is close to re-signing the former first-round pick, Jeremy Fowler of tweets, and’s Ian Rapoport reports a deal is expected. Vander Esch and the Cowboys are on the verge of completing a two-year, $11MM agreement, Rapoport adds (Twitter link). The first year will be guaranteed, Jane Slater of tweets.

This marks one of a few off-ball linebacker deals to commence Tuesday. While Dallas has been connected to Bobby Wagner for a second straight offseason, the team liked what it saw from Vander Esch in 2022. This contract matches the deal the Dolphins gave David Long on Monday. Wagner is unlikely to be in the picture any longer, per Slater, now that Vander Esch has agreed to terms (Twitter link).

The Steelers and Texans also pursued Vander Esch, Slater adds (on Twitter). But the Cowboys are bringing back the former Pro Bowler for a sixth season. They will give him a raise to return; the Boise State product signed for just $2MM in 2022.

Although Vander Esch has not matched his rookie-year form, as injuries intervened early in his career, he is still just 27 and should have some prime seasons remaining. Pro Football Focus viewed Vander Esch as a top-12 coverage linebacker last season. The 749 defensive snaps LVE logged were the most since his standout rookie season. He reached that total despite missing three games. Vander Esch totaled 90 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble during his 14-game run, and he added two pass deflections in Dallas’ blowout playoff win in Tampa.

The Buccaneers performance may well have helped Vander Esch secure this contract, as he came back after a shoulder injury sidelined him for the final three regular-season games. Concerns about Vander Esch’s past with neck injuries resurfaced, but this Cowboys agreement shows the team remains confident in his availability going forward.

The Cowboys have used Micah Parsons more as an edge rusher, leaving more snaps available at linebacker. The team also rosters Damone Clark and Jabril Cox but lost Luke Gifford to the Titans on Tuesday. Anthony Barr is also a free agent, after having signed a one-year deal last summer.

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