Micah Parsons

Jerry Jones On Cowboys’ Financial Approach

The Cowboys’ lack of outside additions in free agency and movement in terms of extending their top players has been a key talking point this offseason. Many of Dallas’ younger in-house options will be counted on to take a step forward in 2024, while plenty of attention remains focused on the financial futures of quarterback Dak Prescott, wideout CeeDee Lamb and edge rusher Micah Parsons.

To no surprise, owner Jerry Jones has faced plenty of questions related to Dallas’ comparative inaction on the market in 2024. Linebacker Eric Kendricks and running back Royce Freeman represent the only veterans brought in to date, and the team’s tight cap situation is a key reason why. As Jones recently stated, retaining any or all members of the Prescott-Lamb-Parsons trio will lead to notable complications elsewhere on the roster.

“Our rules of this game is to have a salary cap,” Jones said, via The Athletic’s Jon Machota (subscription required). “There’s no question we’ve been operating on the credit card. That’s how we’ve had Dak Prescott plus his great supporting cast around him for the last three or four years… So if you decide to have a key player and you pay him to that extent, then he’s going to have less supporting cast around. Look around. That’s the way it works.

“We have known that you were going to basically have to have less in order to have some of the players that we want to have at the prices they are. You got to have less supporting cast. There’s no getting around it.”

The Cowboys have indeed enjoyed having Lamb and Parsons on their rookie contracts while retaining Prescott at a high cap hit. The latter is in line to play out 2024 on the final year of his pact, and while Dallas is hopeful a new agreement can be worked out, the 30-year-old recently suggested he is open to reaching free agency. Prescott could command $60MM per year on a new accord, and Lamb and Parsons could each approach the top of the market at their respective positions.

Especially in recent years, many teams around the league have attempted to get ahead of the curve by locking up top producers early and leaving others to react to a new price point. Jones confirmed the Cowboys are instead taking a different approach with their foundational players. In the case of Prescott and Lamb in particular, Dallas is content to wait for the next wave of new deals.

“We’d like to see some more leaves fall,” Jones added. “We’d like to see some more action… It’s on your mind. It’d be madness not to know that the contracts are ahead. I want to see a few more cards played, candidly. If you got trouble with when the timing is around here, it’s because I’m not ready to go.”

The top of the QB market has surpassed $50MM per season, while the league’s ascending receivers are benefiting from the position’s lucrative nature. Recent extensions for the likes of DeVonta Smith, Amon-Ra St. Brown and A.J. Brown have offered a potential framework for a Lamb deal. The likes of Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle could also push the top of the market even higher.

Lamb is absent from Dallas’ offseason program amidst the lack of negotiations on an extension. Given the way things are headed from a financial standpoint, any new deal (which could avoided for several months since he is set to play out his fifth-year option in 2024) will drastically alter Dallas’ cap situation. That is certainly true of Prescott and Parsons as well (both of whom also are still firmly in the team’s long-term plans), but a patient approach will apparently remain the Cowboys’ preference.

2025 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker

NFL teams have until May 2 to officially pick up fifth-year options on 2021 first-rounders. The 2020 CBA revamped the option structure and made them fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, fifth-year option salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement and performance- and usage-based benchmarks:

  • Two-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternates) 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 receive the average of the third-20th-highest salaries at their position:
    • At least a 75% snap rate in two of their first three seasons
    • A 75% snap average across all three seasons
    • At least 50% in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will receive the average of the third-25th top salaries at their position

With the deadline looming, we will use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:

  1. QB Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars ($25.66MM): Exercised
  2. QB Zach Wilson, Broncos* ($22.41MM): Declined
  3. QB Trey Lance, Cowboys** ($22.41MM): Declined
  4. TE Kyle Pitts, Falcons ($10.88MM): Exercised
  5. WR Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals ($21.82MM): Exercised
  6. WR Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins ($15.59MM): Exercised
  7. T Penei Sewell, Lions ($19MM): Extended through 2029
  8. CB Jaycee Horn, Panthers ($12.47MM): Exercised
  9. CB Patrick Surtain, Broncos ($19.82MM): Exercised
  10. WR DeVonta Smith, Eagles ($15.59MM): Extended through 2028
  11. QB Justin Fields, Steelers*** ($25.66MM): Declined
  12. DE Micah Parsons, Cowboys ($21.32MM): Exercised
  13. T Rashawn Slater, Chargers ($19MM): Exercised
  14. OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jets ($13.31MM): Exercised
  15. QB Mac Jones, Jaguars**** ($25.66MM): Declined
  16. LB Zaven Collins, Cardinals ($13.25MM): Declined
  17. T Alex Leatherwood, Raiders: N/A
  18. LB Jaelan Phillips, Dolphins ($13.3MM): Exercised
  19. LB Jamin Davis, Commanders ($14.48MM): Declined
  20. WR Kadarius Toney, Chiefs***** ($14.35MM): Declined
  21. DE Kwity Paye, Colts ($13.4MM): Exercised
  22. CB Caleb Farley, Titans ($12.47MM): Declined
  23. T Christian Darrisaw, Vikings ($16MM): Exercised
  24. RB Najee Harris, Steelers ($6.79MM): Declined
  25. RB Travis Etienne, Jaguars ($6.14MM): Exercised
  26. CB Greg Newsome, Browns ($13.38MM): To be exercised
  27. WR Rashod Bateman, Ravens ($14.35MM): N/A; extended through 2026
  28. DE Payton Turner, Saints ($13.39MM): Declined
  29. CB Eric Stokes, Packers ($12.47MM): Declined
  30. DE Greg Rousseau, Bills ($13.39MM): Exercised
  31. LB Odafe Oweh, Ravens ($13.25MM): Exercised
  32. LB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Buccaneers ($13.25MM): Declined

* = Jets traded Wilson on April 22, 2024
** = 49ers traded Lance on August 25, 2023
*** = Bears traded Fields on March 16, 2024
**** = Patriots traded Jones on March 10, 2024
***** = Giants traded Toney on October 27, 2022

Cowboys Pick Up Micah Parsons’ Fifth-Year Option

With the draft approaching, teams continue to make decisions on 2021 first-round selections’ futures. To no surprise, the Cowboys will keep edge rusher Micah Parsons in the fold for at least the next two years.

Dallas has picked up Parsons’ option, ESPN’s Todd Archer reports. The move – which the team has since announced – will come at a cost of $21.32MM, since the former No. 12 pick has been designated as a defensive end. A tender with an outside linebacker classification would have been costlier, but Parsons is nevertheless in line for a monster second contract.

Dallas, of course, has massive financial decisions to make with respect to Parsons, quarterback Dak Prescott and wideout CeeDee Lamb. Each member of that trio is due for a considerable raise, although Prescott is currently entering a walk year and Lamb – having been drafted one year before Parsons – represents a more pressing priority. The latter has said he is willing to wait on contract talks, but classifying defenders as defensive ends (rather than outside linebackers) often leads to grievances.

In many cases, compromises are made with time to spare in terms of multi-year deals being worked out or middle ground figures being agreed to on an option. Parsons has certainly made a case to take the top spot in the league in terms of annual compensation amongst edge rushers, a title which currently belongs to Nick Bosa ($34MM). That extension was signed on the eve of the 2023 campaign, and it has been followed by an historic jump in the salary cap ceiling. Parsons delivered a third straight Pro Bowl campaign this year, leading to a third-place finish in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

The 24-year-old has recorded 13, 13.5 and 14 sacks during his decorated career so far. That has earned him first-team All-Pro acclaim on two occasions (along with a second-team nod in 2023), cementing his status as a foundational member of Dallas’ defense. That will remain the case for at least the intermediate future, but progress on a long-term deal will be a story to follow this offseason.

A recent report on the Parsons situation indicated an agreement is still expected to be reached on a mega-extension. The Cowboys have been notably hesitant on the quarterback and receiver fronts this offseason, aiming to gauge the outside market at those positions before committing to Prescott and/or Lamb. Regardless of what happens with those two, a massive Parsons investment will be needed relatively soon to keep him in the fold and avoid any contractual conflict over his classification.

Cowboys To Classify Micah Parsons As DE On Fifth-Year Option

11:19am: The Cowboys may not have made a final decision on Parsons’ positional designation, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill indicates a D-end classification will draw a grievance from the defender’s camp. This may end up being a footnote, with Hill adding a Parsons extension is expected to come together over the next year. In the long-running saga of edge rusher positions factoring into salaries, a Parsons grievance would be a notable development.

8:46am: Many instances have come about during the franchise tag era of teams classifying edge rushers as linebackers as opposed to defensive ends, as the former designation saves a bit of money under the tag formula. Grievances have stemmed from these decisions, with compromises being reached on some occasions. The script may flip in Dallas.

This year’s franchise tag and fifth-year option numbers produced a higher linebacker salary compared to defensive ends. The LB tag comes in at $24MM, while the D-end number is $21.32MM. This will pertain to the Cowboys, who have refused in the past to label Micah Parsons a full-on defensive end despite the team regularly lining up the star defender at that spot.

While the Cowboys will make one of the easiest fifth-year option calls in history by exercising Parsons’ 2025 guarantee, the Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken notes the team will classify Parsons as a defensive end when picking up the option.

Drafted as a linebacker, Parsons made the move to regular edge rusher fairly early in his career. But the Cowboys had previously pushed back on labeling the 2021 No. 11 overall pick a DE. The team would, however, stand to have a clear runway to label Parsons a DE due to the fast-rising star playing the bulk of his snaps at the position. Parsons played 87.8% of his defensive snaps on the D-line last season. With the Cowboys using a 4-3 scheme, this would not fall under the typical 4-3/3-4 dispute that commonly comes up regarding edge rushers’ tag or option numbers. Because Parsons has three original-ballot Pro Bowl nods on his resume, his fifth-year option doubles as the franchise tag number.

As of now, it would be unlikely Parsons plays the 2025 season on his option. The Cowboys found a dominant defender with that No. 11 pick three years ago, and the Penn State product is on a clear path toward the Hall of Fame. He will command a top-market extension. The option number could play a part in the team’s extension approach, which would introduce a new wrinkle in a process that usually plays out with teams preferring to label an edge rusher as a linebacker for financial purposes.

Since the 2011 draft began the option era, the Cowboys have extended four players (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Ezekiel Elliott) before they played a season on the fifth-year number. Smith, Frederick and Elliott signed new deals before their fourth seasons. Morris Claiborne and Byron Jones are the only Cowboys to play out a fifth-year option, doing so when it was guaranteed for injury only. Both left in free agency the following offseason. The Cowboys would surely use the franchise tag on Parsons in 2026 if his extension talks were to encounter a snag.

It will be interesting to see if Parsons follows Elliott’s playbook and forces the issue this offseason, though his February stance would not indicate as such yet. Players had more options regarding holdouts before the 2020 CBA changed the service-time requirement in an effort to prevent holdouts, leading to the hold-in tactic as a regular option during negotiations. The Cowboys would have Parsons attached to just a $2.99MM base salary if he is not extended this season.

While most teams wait until Year 5 to extend first-round picks, the Cowboys have made exceptions in the past. However, the team has a big-ticket CeeDee Lamb extension to negotiate this offseason, along with a potential Dak Prescott re-up. It is possible a Parsons move will be tabled to 2025, which would put the ball in the dominant sack artist’s court.

Micah Parsons Not Actively Pursuing Cowboys Extension

The 2024 offseason will require a number of key financial decisions involving the Cowboys’ nucleus. Top of the list in that respect is a new deal for quarterback Dak Prescott, but wideout CeeDee Lamb and edge rusher Micah Parsons are also eligible for monster extensions of their own.

Lamb was drafted in 2020, one year before Parsons. The former is on the books for $17.99MM in 2024 on his fifth-year option, but Parsons will no doubt have his option picked up this spring. That move will keep him in place through the 2025 campaign. As a result, Lamb represents a more pressing order of business for Dallas.

Parsons acknowledged as much during a recent appearance on NFL Network’s Super Bowl Live. As a result, he is not aggressively pursuing an extension, one which will likely put him at or near the top of the pecking order among edge rushers. Lamb, too, will not come cheap on his second contract; he has publicly stated a desire to become the NFL’s highest-paid receiver.

Lamb posted single-season franchise records for both receptions (135) and yards (1,749) in 2023, scoring a career-high 14 total touchdowns along the way. The 24-year-old earned a first-team All-Pro nod along with a third career Pro Bowl invite as a result, and he could command an AAV at or near Tyreek Hill‘s market-setting $30MM on his next pact. Negotiations on that front will likely take precedence over talks with Parsons, though the latter is amenable to hammering out a deal in the near future.

“If they’re ready to talk about a deal and get a deal done, I’ll be super excited,” Parsons said. “You know I’m ready to be [with the] Cowboys for life, this is the team I wanted to be with, this is the team I want to win a championship with.”

Parsons has racked up 40.5 sacks in his three seasons with the Cowboys, posting at least 13 in each campaign. That consistency has earned the former Defensive Rookie of the Year a number of accolades (three total All-Pro honors, three Pro Bowl nods) and upped his market value. A new Parsons contract will not kick in until 2026, by which time the edge market may have seen further growth from what has already taken place. Nick Bosa received the league’s largest deal for a non-quarterback in September, inking a $34MM-per-year 49ers extension with $122.5MM guaranteed.

Parsons will no doubt be aiming for a pact similar or larger in value to Bosa’s when the time comes to work out a mega-extension. That time will likely not come this offseason, though, or at least not until the Prescott and Lamb situations gain more clarity. In any case, developments on the Parsons front will be worth monitoring given his importance to Dallas’ defense.

Cowboys To Move Leighton Vander Esch To IR

OCTOBER 12: The Cowboys will follow through on the expected transaction. Vander Esch is heading to IR, McCarthy confirmed Thursday. Expected to be out at least a month with a neck strain, Vander Esch will rehab while off the team’s 53-man roster.

OCTOBER 9: Leighton Vander Esch‘s history with neck trouble affected him during his rookie-contract years in Dallas and impacted his potential for a lucrative extension. Months after re-signing with the team on a two-year deal, the veteran linebacker has run into another neck issue.

A collision with teammate Micah Parsons in the second half of the Cowboys’ loss to the 49ers is expected to lead to a Vander Esch absence. The Cowboys are likely to move the former first-round pick to IR, Mike McCarthy said Monday (via ESPN’s Todd Archer). Vander Esch is expected to miss four to six weeks with a neck strain, according to the Dallas Morning News’ Calvin Watkins.

An IR move would sideline Vander Esch until at least Week 11; the Cowboys have their bye in Week 6. Vander Esch, 27, saw neck injuries sidetrack his career. The first of those came in 2019, when the 2018 first-rounder missed seven games. He then missed three because of neck trouble last season.

The Cowboys gave Vander Esch a two-year, $8MM deal in March. He played the 2022 season on a one-year, $2MM pact. After a breakthrough rookie season, this did not appear the path Vander Esch’s career would go. The Boise State product soared to second-team All-Pro honors after a 140-tackle season that included two interceptions and seven passes defensed. Vander Esch played a lead role in Dallas rallying back to win the NFC East in 2018, but he fell off the extension radar due to injuries.

Dallas declined his fifth-year option in 2021, and while the parties have since agreed to two more contracts, neither checks in as an especially lucrative deal for the once-promising prospect. Still, Vander Esch rallied back in 2022 and logged his most defensive snaps (746) since his impact rookie year. While the Cowboys disbanded their multiyear LVE-Jaylon Smith pair two years ago, they have still kept the younger linebacker in their plans. For the time being, however, Vander Esch will drift out of the picture.

The team is looking into a veteran addition, per the Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken. Dan Quinn also offered an interesting potential solution for a Vander Esch absence. The third-year Dallas DC said an extended hiatus could lead to Micah Parsons spending more time at linebacker, The Athletic’s Jon Machota tweets. Drafted as a linebacker, Parsons quickly graduated to pass-rushing star. The Cowboys have refrained from labeling the impact defender a pure defensive end, but Parsons spends most of his time rushing from the edge.

A move back to the second level would be an interesting development for this defense, given the value Parsons has generated up front. The Penn State product did play more ILB as a rookie, and the Cowboys will soon be thinner at that position. Dallas also is much deeper along its D-line, rostering the likes of Dorance Armstrong, Dante Fowler and Sam Williams as auxiliary edge rushers. Conversely, the team has an issue at linebacker.

Opting not to re-sign Anthony Barr, the Cowboys moved 2022 Day 3 draftee Damone Clark into their starting lineup. They drafted Demarvion Overshown in Round 3 but lost the rookie to a torn ACL this summer. The team waived Jabril Cox in August. Dallas rosters just one more ILB on its 53-man roster, second-year UDFA Markquese Bell. The team will need to add at that position soon.

In addition to Vander Esch’s setback, the Cowboys lost veteran special-teamer C.J. Goodwin — likely for the rest of the season. Goodwin suffered a torn pectoral muscle, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The Cowboys re-signed Goodwin in March, giving him a veteran-minimum deal. Goodwin, 33, has been with the Cowboys since 2018.

Cowboys’ Micah Parsons To Play More Versatile Role In 2023?

Micah Parsons has established himself as one of the league’s most productive defenders during his first two years in the NFL. The two-time Cowboys All-Pro has also shown a intriguing degree of versatility with respect to his alignments, something which could be taken a step further this season.

Parsons was drafted as an inside linebacker following his college career, but he quickly showed an ability to be a disruptive force off the edge. That led to the expectation that a full-time position switch to defensive end could be coming, but head coach Mike McCarthy made it clear last offseason that Parsons would instead remain a movable chess piece on Dallas’ defense.

The 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year logged 738 snaps along the defensive line last season, per PFF, adding 737 as a stand-up outside linebacker. Parsons’ 13.5 sacks showed how effective he can be in those alignments and earned him a top-10 finish in MVP voting. Instances in which he handled other duties (including in coverage) could lead to an even more varied workload moving forward.

“Just playing chess, being able to move around,” Parsons said, via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News“I think that’s the special ability that I have or I want to incorporate. We’re doing a lot of special things. I don’t want to give a lot away right now. But it’s going to be a really cool year. I’m probably going to play eight positions this year.”

While that figure may be on the high side, both the Penn State alum and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn acknowledged that training camp will be used as a testing ground to determine where Parsons can line up in different situations. He will still spend considerable time as an edge rusher, of course, meaning his endeavor to increase his playing weight will be one of significance.

Parsons is aiming to bring himself to 255 pounds (after spending last season at 245) to be better equipped to handle life at the line of scrimmage, but also to preserve what could be a very highly decorated career. By the time the season starts, he will likely have bulked up and the Cowboys will have spent time during the summer devising more unique ways to deploy him.

Cowboys Rumors: Parsons, Draft, Ball, Smith

Cowboys defensive star Micah Parsons has not been in attendance for voluntary workouts in Dallas thus far. According to Calvin Watkins of The Dallas Morning News, this has nothing to do with any issues in his relationship with the team and is actually in service of the team.

Parsons has reportedly been in Austin attempting to bulk up in preparation for more playing time at defensive end. One of the NFL’s more versatile athletes, Parsons played mostly in the box as a rookie before spending the majority of his time last year on the line. At 245 pounds last year, Dallas staff felt he needed to add some muscle in order to better handle routine double-teams.

So, Parsons’s absence is not contract related in any way. He says he’s added about seven pounds and doesn’t intend to surpass 255 in his career. Parsons also claimed earlier that he would be in attendance for Organized Team Activities set to start in two weeks. His absence shouldn’t worry too many as he’s determined to come back stronger and even more dangerous.

Here are a few more rumors concerning the Cowboys:

  • There was reportedly another option on the table for the Cowboys when they used the 26th overall pick to select Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith in the first round of this year’s draft. According to David Moore of The Dallas Morning News, Dallas heavily considered using the pick to draft Syracuse offensive guard Matthew Bergeron, who would go on to be selected by Atlanta 12 picks later. Bergeron fit their needs due to the departure of starting guard Connor McGovern to Buffalo. They did address the offensive line later in the draft and likely still will with undrafted free agents, but many expect last year’s first rounder, Tyler Smith, to bounce into a guard spot with the healthy returns of Tyron Smith and Terence Steele, covering the role.
  • Another piece of the offensive line, Josh Ball will have some new expectations this year, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer. After Ball saw extremely limited time in his first two years, mostly at tackle, head coach Mike McCarthy has stated that Ball will be asked to play on the interior this season, as well. This is perhaps another potential solution to the loss of McGovern, or it could just be a backup plan after seeing all the offensive line injuries from last season.
  • Mostly known for his career in San Francisco but last known on the field as a Cowboy, Aldon Smith recently received an update to his off-field situation. Last we heard, the troubled defender had been arrested on a felony charge of DUI causing injury, adding to the litany of issues that had resulted in a four-year suspension from the NFL. Now, according to TMZ, Smith’s arrest has led to a 12-month sentence in jail, likely ending any far-reaching hopes of a return to the NFL.

Cowboys Not Moving Micah Parsons To DE

After winning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, Micah Parsons is expected to have another highly productive campaign in 2022. Given his prowess rushing the passer, some thought he would be in line for a full-time positional switch from middle linebacker to defensive end. In an interview with the team’s website, head coach Mike McCarthy said that won’t be happening. 

[RELATED: Parsons Played 2021 Season On Injured Knee]

“That’s a very fair question” McCarthy said, referring to suggestions Parsons line up on the edge permanently. “But we’ve made it clear: we want him moving around.”

Drafted 12th overall as the consensus top linebacker, Parsons acquitted himself quite well at the position during his time there. Early on in the season, though, he switched to DE after an injury to DeMarcus Lawrence left the Cowboys thin on edge rushers. Regardless of where he lined up on the field, the Penn State alum put up impressive numbers all year.

Parsons totalled 84 tackles, 13 sacks and 20 tackles for loss across 16 games played; as a result, he was recognized with not only the DRoY award, but also Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods. As McCarthy himself noted, however, those sack totals were split between his time at either position. His overall ability to not only rush the passer, but also defend the run and drop into coverage clearly has the team eyeing more of a ‘Swiss Army-knife’ type of role for him.

The Cowboys ultimately lost Randy Gregory in free agency, and later signed Dante Fowler to help replace him. Even if they add pass-rushing help in the draft later this month, Parsons will likely still have plenty of snaps on the edge moving forward. Barring a repeat of last season’s injuries, though, he will also spend significant time in his more natural position.

Micah Parsons Played 2021 Season With Knee Injury

The Cowboys’ original plan with the No. 10 pick of the 2021 draft was to select either South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn or Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II. Of course, both of those players were off the board by the time Dallas was on the clock, so the club traded down and ultimately landed Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, despite its existing LB depth.

All Parsons did was put together a remarkable rookie campaign in which he posted 13 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, and 30 quarterback hits while playing both linebacker and defensive end (just one game into the season, the Cowboys were forced to move Parsons to DE due to a DeMarcus Lawrence injury and Randy Gregory‘s placement on the reserve/COVID-19 list). His efforts earned him NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, and he became the first player to ever win that award by unanimous vote. He also finished second to Steelers edge defender T.J. Watt in NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting.

On top of all that, Parsons hyperextended his knee during a joint practice with the Rams in August, and he played the entire 2021 season while suffering the effects of that injury. “It was at a point where I was like, ‘I’m in a position battle,'” Parsons said. “‘I’m going against Jaylon (Smith). The first game is coming up soon.’ I was like, ‘This is the worst time for this to happen'” (via Jon Machota of The Athletic (subscription required)).

Parsons added, “[i]t’s something that just kept lingering. When you hyperextend something, it needs rest. But I was like, ‘I can’t take no rest.’ The whole season I kept rehabbing, rehabbing, rehabbing so that way I could play in the games.” The 22-year-old also noted that while medication helped, he was in significant pain after games.

A fully-healthy 2022 campaign, along with natural progression and development, might allow Parsons to secure a DPOY nod next year; he will certainly be on the shortlist of favorites heading into the season. But the Cowboys will need to supplement their LB corps just the same. That above-referenced depth at the position is no longer a reality, with Leighton Vander Esch and Keanu Neal set for free agency and with Smith having been released in October.

Fellow LB Jabril Cox, a 2021 fourth-rounder, appeared in seven games last season — primarily in a special teams role — before suffering a torn ACL, which could put the start of his 2022 season in jeopardy.