Leighton Vander Esch

NFL’s Fifth-Year Option Salaries For 2021

The NFL’s 2021 salary cap has been set at $182.5MM, marking the league’s first reduction in a decade. With that, the league has also ironed out the value of this year’s fifth-round option for 2018 first-round picks.

Here’s the full rundown, via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter):

1. Baker Mayfield, Browns, QB — $18.858MM (playing time)

2. Saquon Barkley, Giants, RB — $7.217MM (1x Pro Bowl)

3. Sam Darnold, Jets, QB — $18.858MM (playing time)

4. Denzel Ward, Browns, CB — $13.294MM (1x Pro Bowl)

5. Bradley Chubb, Broncos, LB — $12.716MM (1x Pro Bowl)

6. Quenton Nelson, Colts, G — $13.754MM (2x Pro Bowl)

7. Josh Allen, Bills, QB — $23.106MM (1x Pro Bowl)

8. Roquan Smith, Bears, LB — $9.735MM (playing time)

9. Mike McGlinchey, 49ers, OT — $10.88MM (playing time)

10. Josh Rosen, Cardinals, QB*

11. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Steelers, S (drafted by Dolphins) — $10.612MM (2x Pro Bowl)

12. Vita Vea, Buccaneers, DT — $7.638MM

13. Daron Payne, Washington, DT — $8.529MM (playing time)

14. Marcus Davenport, Saints, DE — $9.553MM

15. Kolton Miller, Raiders, OT — $10.88MM (playing time)

16. Tremaine Edmunds, Bills, LB — $12.716MM (1x Pro Bowl)

17. Derwin James, Chargers, S — $9.052MM (1x Pro Bowl)

18. Jaire Alexander, Packers, CB — $13.294MM (1x Pro Bowl)

19. Leighton Vander Esch, Cowboys, LB — $9.145MM

20. Frank Ragnow, Lions, C — $12.657MM (1x Pro Bowl)

21. Billy Price, Bengals, C — $10.413MM

22. Rashaan Evans, Titans, LB — $9.735MM (playing time)

23. Isaiah Wynn, Patriots, OT — $10.413MM

24. D.J. Moore, Panthers, WR — $11.116MM (playing time)

25. Hayden Hurst, Falcons, TE (Drafted by Ravens) — $5.428MM

26. Calvin Ridley, Falcons, WR — $11.116MM (playing time)

27. Rashaad Penny, Seahawks, RB — $4.523MM

28., Steelers, S Terrell Edmunds — $6.753MM (playing time)

29. Taven Bryan, Jaguars, DT — $7.638MM

30. Mike Hughes, Vikings, CB — $12.643MM

31. Sony Michel, Patriots, RB — $4.523MM

32. Lamar Jackson, Ravens, QB — $23.106MM (1x Pro Bowl)

* Rosen was released from his original contract and, therefore, is not option-eligible 

As a refresher, the fifth-year option year is now fully guaranteed. In the past, it was guaranteed for injury only. The values are also dependent on certain performance metrics:

  • Two-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternate Pro Bowlers) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag.
  • One-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag.
  • Players who achieve any of the following will get the average of the 3rd-20th highest salaries at their position:
    • 75%+ snaps in two of their first three seasons
    • 75%+ average across all three seasons
    • 50%+ in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will get the average of the 3rd-25th top salaries at their position.

NFC East Notes: Haskins, Cowboys, Eagles

Dwayne Haskins‘ standing in the Washington organization has plummeted tremendously since the previous regime drafted him 15th overall last year. He is now the team’s third-string quarterback, with both Kyle Allen and Alex Smith leapfrogging him on the depth chart, and trade rumors have emerged. Haskins has clearly not impressed Washington’s coaching staff, and John Keim of ESPN.com notes last year’s staff took issue with the one-year Ohio State sensation as well. Both staffs have communicated concerns about Haskins’ work ethic to the quarterback. This concern surfaced early during Haskins’ rookie season, one that ended with the young passer ranking last in QBR by a considerable margin. Haskins has not made a trade request, and Washington has yet to field any trade calls on him, Keim adds. Although Ron Rivera has publicly backed Haskins, Keim notes both sides appear prepared to move on after one of the quicker auditions for a first-round quarterback in recent history.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • Leighton Vander Esch is progressing closer to beating his recovery timetable. The Cowboys linebacker saw his first post-injury work in pads Friday, and NFL.com’s Jane Slater tweets the third-year defender could well be activated ahead of Monday’s game against the Cardinals. The Cowboys placed Vander Esch on IR after Week 1 because of a broken collarbone. Given a six- to eight-week timetable, Vander Esch returning Monday would mean a mere four-game absence. That would obviously be encouraging for a player who has seen injuries stall his promising career.
  • The Eagles‘ offensive line resides as one of the NFL’s most decimated position groups. Jason Peters, Brandon Brooks and Isaac Seumalo are on IR. The team declared Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson out for Week 6 with an ankle injury. While Johnson’s injury is not expected to require surgery, per the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane (on Twitter), he will rest it this week against the Ravens. Although Johnson not needing surgery represents good news, the Eagles are down to one original starter — center Jason Kelce — in their lineup against a top-tier Ravens defense.
  • One of the Eagles’ defensive depth pieces returned to practice this week. The Eagles opened Will Parks‘ 21-day activation window. The fifth-year safety has yet to debut for his hometown team. The Eagles placed Parks on IR before Week 1 because of a hamstring injury and have until 4pm CT Saturday to activate him for Week 6.
  • The Cowboys worked out defensive tackle Gabe Wright on Friday. Wright has not played in a regular-season game since the 2018 season. The former fourth-round pick has spent each of his four seasons with a different team — the Lions, Browns, Dolphins and Raiders. The team only has two defensive linemen on its practice squad.

East Notes: Cowboys, Prescott, Jets, Gase

Dak Prescott is obviously out for the season with his brutal ankle injury, and speculation immediately turned to his future with the Cowboys due to the fact that he’s set to be a free agent at the end of the year. Prescott and the front office have been in a stalemate over his contract for a while, and the injury only further complicates things. Despite the lack of commitment, team VP Stephen Jones emphatically shot down any talk of parting ways during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan on Monday, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link).

“Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. He’s our future. He’s special. If anyone can overcome anything, it would be Dak,” Jerry’s son said when asked if anything had changed in regard to Prescott being their quarterback of the future. Of course there’s not much else Jones could say the day after such a serious injury, but the strength of the assertion is still notable. The Cowboys certainly don’t seem like they have any intention of letting Prescott leave town, although of course a lot could change between now and next season. Meanwhile Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets that a source told him last night that Prescott’s surgery went “very well,” and was performed by the highly regarded foot and ankle doctor Gene Curry, who was brought in by the team’s orthopedist.

Here’s more from the league’s eastern divisions:

  • While things may seem pretty bleak for the Cowboys right now with their mounting injuries, we do have a dash of good news to pass along. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who broke his collarbone in the team’s opening loss to the Rams, appears to be nearing a return, according to Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Vander Esch has apparently been ramping up his activity, and returned to padded practice late last week. The initial timeframe on his injury was 6-8 weeks, and Hill writes that head coach Mike McCarthy says he’s ahead of schedule. It sounds like Vander Esch has a chance to return for Dallas’ upcoming Monday Night Football game against the Cardinals, and their struggling defense could certainly use him.
  • The Jets are now 0-5 on the year, and after watching two of his fellow winless head coaches get canned, it looks like Adam Gase is considering major changes. At his presser Monday Gase said he has “toyed” with the idea of giving up play-calling responsibilities on offense, and that “everything is on the table at this point,” via Connor Hughes of The Athletic (Twitter link). Running backs coach Jim Bob Cooter, who was the Lions’ offensive coordinator recently, and OC Dowell Loggains would be the natural candidates to hand off to. Gase has always called the plays during his head coaching career, so this would be a huge change for him.
  • Jets pass-catchers have been dropping like flies this season, and another one is about to hit the shelf. Gase revealed during the same presser that Chris Hogan suffered a high ankle sprain on Sunday and will be out for a while, Brian Costello of the New York Post tweets. The former Patriots deep threat is in his first season with New York and has been playing an increased role due to all the injuries. He’s had at least three catches in each of the past two weeks and had six for 75 yards back in Week 2. Fortunately for the Jets, they should be getting fellow receiver Breshad Perriman back soon from his own ankle injury.

Cowboys To Place Leighton Vander Esch On IR

Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch suffered a broken collarbone in Sunday’s loss to the Rams (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). The Cowboys will place LVE on IR, though he’ll be able to return after 6-8 weeks.

[RELATED: Torn ACL For Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin]

Vander Esch went down in the first quarter of Sunday’s game, after notching three stops to open up the 2020 season. This is, unfortunately, familiar territory for the third-year ‘backer. Last year, a neck injury sidelined Vander Esch for seven games.

The Cowboys were – and still are – banking on big plays from Vander Esch, who earned a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie. In 2018, the Boise State product racked up 140 tackles and two interceptions. This year, new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy planned to have the 24-year-old manage the defense from the inside of the linebacker formation. Now, Joe Thomas figures to step into his ILB role, with veteran Justin March serving as his primary backup.

Per the league’s modified IR rules, Vander Esch will be eligible to return after three weeks. However, his fractured collarbone will require a longer stint on the sidelines. It’s a tough break for the Cowboys, who have also placed veteran linebacker Sean Lee on IR.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC East Notes: Eagles, Washington, Staff, Vander Esch

While the Eagles are not officially holding out hope Brandon Brooks can return late in the 2020 season, they have not shut that prospect down. They placed the Pro Bowl guard on the PUP list, rather than injured reserve. Lane Johnson said his longtime teammate is ahead of schedule and can see him returning from his latest Achilles tear before the season ends, Tim McManus of ESPN.com tweets. Brooks recovered from a January 2019 Achilles tear to return in time for Week 1 last season. Following the same timetable, Brooks could conceivably be in play for a late-December or January re-emergence. As players like Terrell Suggs and Michael Crabtree showed during the 2010s, an offseason Achilles tear is not an automatic season-ender. Of course, Brooks is carrying a bit more weight and suffered his injury later in the offseason. Longtime Eagles left tackle Jason Peters is currently manning Brooks’ right guard position.

As the NFC East teams begin their padded training camp practices, here is the latest from the division:

  • Doug Pederson is back at work after contracting COVID-19. The fifth-year Eagles HC was the third known coach to test positive for the coronavirus, following Sean Payton and Anthony Lynn. Unlike the Saints and Chargers coaches, Pederson, 52, was asymptomatic.
  • Leighton Vander Esch has been playing a new position at Cowboys camp. The third-year linebacker has swapped spots with Jaylon Smith, with Vander Esch now playing middle linebacker and Smith shifting to the weak side, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes. Both players are set to reprise their roles as Dallas’ three-down ‘backers. The Cowboys changed defensive coordinators this offseason, moving from Rod Marinelli to Mike Nolan. Vander Esch is returning from offseason neck surgery.
  • Washington made a historic business-side hire, naming Jason Wright as team president. A former linebacker who played seven seasons with the Falcons, Browns and Cardinals, Wright is the NFL’s first Black team president and the fourth former player to be named to such a post. While the 38-year-old exec will succeed Bruce Allen, his responsibilities will be exclusively on the business side, John Keim of ESPN.com notes. Washington remains without a nominal GM.
  • The Cowboys will have a new voice in their quarterbacks room, at least for training camp. Seneca Wallace is working with Dallas’ QBs as a training camp staffer, Jon Machota of The Athletic tweets. Wallace joins fellow recent NFL passers Kellen Moore and Scott Tolzien on the Cowboys’ staff. Like Tolzien, Wallace spent time in Green Bay during Mike McCarthy‘s run.

NFC East Notes: Vander Esch, Eagles, Solder

Some positive Cowboys news emerged this week. Third-year linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has fully recovered from the offseason neck surgery he underwent. The former first-round pick told NFL.com’s Jane Slater he has been training full-go for multiple months (video link). Vander Esch was projected to be ready for OTAs, so it does not come as a major surprise he has moved past the injury that sidelined him for much of last season. However, Vander Esch’s cervical spinal stenosis condition — diagnosed while he was at Boise State — would make future neck surgeries problematic. So his transition back to the field will be a key part of Cowboys training camp.

Here is the latest from the NFC East, shifting to some of the division’s offensive lines:

  • Doug Pederson confirmed the Eagles have engaged in talks with 11-year left tackle starter Jason Peters, whom they let hit the market in March. However, the fifth-year Eagles coach expects 2019 first-rounder Andre Dillard to start at left tackle in 2020. “With Jason Peters, listen, we’ve always said we’d stay in touch with him during the offseason and we have,” Pederson said, via NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Reuben Frank. “I have a lot of respect for a guy like Jason Peters who played that left tackle position for so many years at a high level. But as we move forward, Andre Dillard was a guy we drafted to be that left tackle for us. The way Andre played last year kind of propels him into this offseason where he’s taken command of that role.”
  • Shifting to the Giants‘ left tackle situation, Nate Solder‘s contract makes it likely he will keep that job for a third season. But this will almost certainly be Solder’s last as a Giant, Dan Duggan of The Athletic writes (subscription required). Thanks to a September 2019 restructure, Solder carries a monster $19.5MM cap hit this season. The Giants can save $14MM by shedding his contract in 2021, which is the final season of the ex-Patriot’s four-year agreement. Big Blue drafted Andrew Thomas No. 4 overall, and it would be logical for the Georgia product to move from right to left tackle next year. New York used a third-round pick on UConn tackle Matt Peart, potentially planning a Thomas-Peart starting lineup in 2021.
  • The Redskins brought back veteran cornerback Aaron Colvin, whom they initially signed during the 2019 season.

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Redskins, Peters

Mike McCarthy has hired several notable assistants to his first Cowboys staff, and the ex-Packers coach is considering making another big addition. The Cowboys are interviewing former Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards for a staff position, Todd Archer of ESPN.com tweets. While Dallas hired Mike Nolan as DC, McCarthy and Edwards have a long history in the NFC North. The pair coached against one another for years when McCarthy ran Green Bay’s offense, and Edwards has a history in Dallas. He spent four seasons (1998-2001) as the Cowboys’ linebackers coach — his first NFL gig. Edwards, 53, was believed to be in the mix for the Browns’ DC job, but the team prefers 49ers secondary coach Joe Woods for the post.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • An Amari Cooper long-term deal with the Cowboys has been on the team’s agenda for over a year, and the Pro Bowl wideout has long expressed a desire to stay. But no agreement is imminent, Cooper said (via NFL.com’s Jane Slater, video link). Stephen Jones identified Cooper as the Cowboys’ No. 2 offseason priority, behind Dak Prescott, and Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk expects a deal to be finalized.
  • The neck surgery Leighton Vander Esch underwent this month went well, and Jerry Jones expects the standout linebacker to be ready for OTAs, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News notes. Although Vander Esch was battling nerve damage and missed much of the second half of this season, this was a minimally invasive procedure. However, Vander Esch’s cervical spinal stenosis condition — diagnosed before he became a 2018 first-rounder — makes future neck surgeries problematic, per Gehlken. So this will be a Cowboys situation to monitor going forward.
  • Former 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina will join Ron Rivera‘s Redskins staff, with Washington announcing he will be added as its assistant D-line coach. A former 17-year NFL veteran, Zgonina broke into coaching midway through the 2010s as an assistant D-line coach. The 49ers let him go after the 2018 season, his second with the franchise.
  • The Eagles are expected to make major changes to their roster, which could be categorized as aging with numerous starters either north of 30 or set to turn 30 this year. One of the moves will be a switch from Jason Peters to Andre Dillard at left tackle, Zach Berman of The Athletic opines (subscription required). Peters is a free agent and has been Philadelphia’s left tackle since the 2009 season but turned 38 on Thursday.

Cowboys Make Four Roster Moves

As Dallas’ disappointing season winds down, they made a few roster moves Tuesday. The team has placed linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and guard Xavier Su’a-Filo on injured reserve, while signing linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong and offensive tackle Wyatt Miller to the active roster to take their places.

We heard yesterday that Vander Esch would undergo season-ending neck surgery, so this move was just a formality for him. Su’a-Filo had been starting at guard for the past month, meaning the Cowboys will be making an offensive line change for their Week 17 date with the Redskins. Dallas can still sneak into the playoffs as the NFC East champ, but they’ll need the Eagles to lose to the Giants for that to happen. Su’a-Filo was the 33rd overall pick of the 2014 draft by the Texans. He started for a while in Houston, but was mostly a disappointment.

He came to the Cowboys early on last season on a two-year deal, and ended up starting eight games. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent this spring. Armstrong is a journeyman who has bounced around the league a lot over the past handful of years, appearing in five games for the Saints earlier this season. Miller is a rookie UDFA from UCF who had been on the Bengals’ practice squad.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Leighton Vander Esch To Undergo Surgery

The Cowboys still have a chance to book a playoff berth, but they will go the rest of the way without one of their top defenders. Leighton Vander Esch‘s lengthy absence will continue into the offseason. He will miss Week 17 and be shut down for the season’s remainder, Jason Garrett confirmed Monday.

Vander Esch, however, will not need major surgery before returning in the offseason. The second-year linebacker underwent testing recently, and Jane Slater of NFL.com reports (via Twitter) the results indicated a need for a minimally invasive surgery. Vander Esch is expected to recover from his neck injury long before training camp, Slater adds.

This season obviously did not go as well for the first-round pick, who was one of the top rookies from a strong 2018 class. Nerve damage sidelined Vander Esch for the Cowboys’ past five games. He missed two other Dallas games this season due to injury as well. After a 140-tackle rookie slate that produced a Pro Bowl invite, Vander Esch will close his sophomore campaign with 72. But the Boise State alum remains an essential piece for the Cowboys going forward.

The Cowboys have used veteran Sean Lee more in Vander Esch’s absence, moving Joe Thomas into their starting lineup as well. Lee, Thomas and Jaylon Smith are expected to start in Dallas’ regular-season finale against the Redskins, a game the Cowboys must win while hoping the Giants can upset the Eagles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC East Notes: Shurmur, Vander Esch, Eagles

Giants head coach Pat Shurmur is clearly on the hot seat, and everything we have heard this year suggests that he could be fired at season’s end. And as Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes, the sentiment for bringing Shurmur back for the 2020 season is dimming within the organization because there is simply no concrete reason to suggest that he should be retained. Previous reports indicated that Shurmur could keep his job simply for the sake of giving young QB Daniel Jones some continuity, but Schwartz says the cons of keeping Shurmur outweigh that potential pro.

Schwartz does not offer an update on Big Blue’s plans for GM Dave Gettleman, and the fact that the Giants have historically practiced patience with their GMs and knew that they were tasking Gettleman with a rebuilding job could mean that he is safe for 2020. But will the team trust him to hire another HC since the Shurmur hire has flopped, or will ownership just clean house and start afresh? All options are definitely on the table.

Let’s take a swing around the NFC East:

  • Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has not played since November 17 due to a neck injury, and while there has been some improvement, the 23-year-old is still not ready to practice, as Todd Archer of ESPN.com writes. The club is not ready to put Vander Esch on IR just yet, but it sounds like that could be a possibility.
  • The Eagles may have lost WR Alshon Jeffery for the season, and as Bo Wulf and Zach Berman of The Athletic write, Nelson Agholor‘s status remains up in the air. Agholor sat out the team’s Monday night win with a knee injury, so Philly may need to make more than one WR roster move. Old friend Jordan Matthews just signed with the 49ers, so Berman believes it’s more likely that the team will promote one or two of their taxi squad wideouts than sign a free agent. Wulf, though, names a few players on other practice squads that the Eagles could poach.
  • Speaking of Jeffery, Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94WIP.com says the Eagles have no choice but to release the veteran wideout if they cannot find a trade partner for him (which seems highly unlikely). Because the team guaranteed Jeffery’s 2020 salary earlier this year in order to create more cap room, cutting Jeffery will result in an enormous dead cap number of over $26MM in 2020. That seems like an impossible pill to swallow, even if the club were to designate him as a post-June 1 cut to spread out the dead cap money over two years, but Shorr-Parks believes the team will indeed cut Jeffery if he cannot be traded.