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Cowboys LB Damien Wilson Could Have Frustrating Contract Year

is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. With the circumstances now facing him in Dallas, Wilson could have a frustrating year before he heads into .

No doubt, Wilson saw the big contract that got last March from the and got excited. They're not that different; both Hitchens and Wilson were mid-round picks who rose into starting roles with the Cowboys. Neither is a star, but both have been solid.

But while Hitchens got lots of playing time last year as the starting middle linebacker, plus with and 's health issues, Wilson goes into 2018 with potentially less opportunity to get on the field.

Lee and Smith are back, of course, and there are high hopes that Jaylon will finally be the full-time stud the Cowboys have hoped for since he was drafted in 2016. And as long as he stays healthy, Sean Lee rarely comes out of the game.

The real kick in the pants for Damien Wilson, though, was the drafting in the of last month's .

Leighton Vander Esch
Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch

With Vander Esch joining the ranks, it's highly probable that Wilson will be dropped down into a reserve role. Leighton is expected to take over as the middle linebacker, with Jaylon Smith moving into the SAM role that Wilson has occupied since the middle of 2016.

Damien will remain a key reserve and perhaps rotation player at times, but he could become far less visible this year than the last two seasons. That's an unwelcome prospect for a guy about to hit the open market.

Unfortunately for Wilson, it may mean having to rely on teammate to get that precious playing time.

Damien already dealt with not being a full starter, with the SAM role in the base only being used partially. Like most NFL teams Dallas used their pass-focused nickel formation more than any other last year.

The two linebackers on the field will likely be Lee and Smith. Vander Esch scouts as a good pass defender, so he should get in the mix a lot. Once again, Damien Wilson is on the outside looking in.

Wilson's had to fight since he entered the NFL. Most fourth-round picks don't become starters in their second year, if ever. So this adversity shouldn't get Damien down.

At the least, Wilson will be a valuable depth option for the Cowboys in 2018. Time will tell if he gets the chance to be more.

Jess Haynie
Jess Haynie
Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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John McClain

He also has to compete with Covington who I think is going to surprise a lot of people. He’s a late round steal

Daniel Bollman

Wilson was a 4th round pick. With Lee over 30, was hoping to see Wilson get a chance to play Will, but that probably won’t happen now with Smith and Covington already in line. Wilson is surely going to test the market after this year

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