Dallas, TX

Dallas Cowboys declining fifth-year option on LB Leighton Vander Esch + Others on NOTICE

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FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys will not pick up Leighton Vander Esch's fifth-year option for 2022, according to his agent, Ron Slavin, which will make the 2018 first-round pick an unrestricted free agent after the upcoming season. Vander Esch's injury history is the biggest reason. He missed 13 games over the past two seasons, starting with a neck injury that required surgery in 2019 and cost him seven games. He missed six games in 2020 because of a broken collarbone. If the Cowboys had picked up the option, the $9.1 million would have been fully guaranteed. Before officially deciding to decline the option, executive vice president Stephen Jones said during draft weekend that the team would still like to keep Vander Esch beyond 2021 if they did not add the fifth year, but it will depend on how he plays. Vander Esch's best season came as a rookie, when he was named to the Pro Bowl after the Cowboys selected him No. 19 overall. He had a franchise-rookie-record 176 tackles in 2018

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