The Cowboys have re-signed Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch to a one-year deal for 2022. The former 1st-round pick joins Michael Gallup, Dorance Armstrong, and Dalton Schultz as 2018 picks to remain in Dallas for at least a fifth season.
After Vander Esch struggled with injuries and scheme changes in 2019-2020, Dallas declined the 5th-year option on his contract for 2022 and allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent. But after a few days on the open market, Leighton remains a Cowboy and on what feels like a “prove it” deal for next season.
There's good reason for optimism with Vander Esch. He was Pro Bowler in his rookie season and the two years after were mostly health-related. He was playing his best ball since 2018 toward the end of last season, even being one of the standout players in Dallas' playoff loss to San Francisco.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2022
Leighton Vander Esch’s deal is up to $3 million, per sources.
— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) March 18, 2022
Leighton's down years have resulted to a significant discount in this 2022 contract for Dallas. The 5th-year option would've paid about $9 million had the Cowboys picked that up. Now they're getting him back at about a third of that price, still just 26 years old and trending upward in health and performance.
Vander Esch's return fills a major hole at the LB position for Dallas. With both he and Keanu Neal free agents, that left the Cowboys with only Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox as significant returning players from last year. Cox having to come back from a torn ACL only made matters worse.