The Dallas Cowboys’ decision to select linebackers Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox in the 2021 NFL Draft has placed into question the future of two holdovers on that side of the ball.
Coming off a disappointing 2020 season and playing under a huge contract, rumors have been swirling that Dallas could move off Pro Bowl linebacker Jaylon Smith. Meanwhile, former first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch has missed 13 games over the past two seasons to injury.
According to this note from Patrik Walker of CBS Sports, the Cowboys have received trade interest from other teams as it relates to the two starting linebackers. NFL Media’s Jane Slater reports that Dallas’ brass has shown no interest in moving Vander Esch.
In addition to adding Parsons and Cox to the mix, the Dallas Cowboys signed former Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl safety Keanu Neal in free agency. New Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who worked with Neal in Atlanta, has indicated that he will transition to linebacker.
Dallas Cowboys depth chart at linebacker
This has suddenly become one of the deepest positions on the Cowboys’ roster. Even after the retirement of franchise stalwart Sean Lee, this unit goes about five deep. Parsons will likely compete with Vander Esch for the starting middle linebacker spot with Smith and Neal vying for the weakside position. Even if Neal loses out, he’s likely going to be Dallas’ starting WILL backer.
What does that mean? It’s more than possible either Smith or Vander Esch could be dealt should the two new additions impress during training camp.
Smith, 25, is playing under a six-year, $68.4 million extension he signed with Dallas back in August of 2019. After putting up a Pro Bowl performance that season, the former Notre Dame standout struggled big time in 2020. It remains to be seen if any team would be willing to take on that type of contract.
Dallas finished last season having yielded a disastrous 29.6 points per game under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. It promptly fired Nolan, only to replace him with the respected Quinn on that side of the ball.
With an entirely new scheme and a ton of new pieces, it would not be a surprise if the Dallas Cowboys moved off one of these veteran linebackers in a trade as the NFL offseason comes to a conclusion and training camps get going next month.