The Dallas Cowboys could be an ideal landing spot for a former Super Bowl champion in 2024.
As suggested by Bleacher Report’s Matt Holder, one of the biggest positions of need for the Cowboys is at linebacker this offseason. With Leighton Vander Esch’s career in question following another season-ending neck injury, Dallas may be forced to look for a potential replacement for the longtime starter.
“With Leighton Vander Esch’s career in question, Dallas might be looking at the free-agent pool for linebackers this offseason,” writes Holder. “While Markquese Bell has played well, especially in coverage, he’s a converted safety and the defense could use a natural linebacker who is a good or better run defender.”
Holder suggests Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive captain Lavonte David as a free agent the Cowboys should pursue.
“David can bring that and more as he’s built a career out of being a complete backer,” writes Holder. “He’s fared well in Pro Football Focus’ grading system against the run this year, and for several years, and had 14 TFL through Week 12 of this season. Plus, he’s getting up there in age and might be willing to take a cheaper deal to play for a Super Bowl contender.”
Why the Cowboys Should Consider Pursuing Lavonte David
David has been the lynchpin of the Buccaneers’ defense since he was drafted back in 2012, notching three All-Pro selections along with a Pro Bowl bid following the 2015 season.
Although David is 33 years old and one of the more accomplished linebackers in the league, he’s entering the final years of his career. After playing under a five-year, $50.3 million deal from 2015 until 2020, David has played on smaller deals since then. After signing a two-year, $25 million deal prior to the 2021 season, David returned to Tampa Bay this past offseason on a one-year, $4.5 million deal.
In other words, he’d likely play under a similar deal — if not a smaller deal — for the opportunity to play in Dallas and play for another Super Bowl ring.
According to Pro Football Focus, David’s play remains high. The veteran linebacker has posted a 66.0 defensive grade and 70.5 run defensive grade this season. With the exception of Marquese Bell’s 80.5 defensive grade, those grades are actually higher than any of the Cowboys’ current linebackers, including Vander Esch.
Perhaps most importantly, David has been a remarkably durable linebacker during his 12-year career. He missed just 12 possible games over the first 11 years of his career. By comparison, Vander Esch has missed 23 games — and counting — over the past five seasons alone.
Leighton Vander Esch’s Career Could Be Over Due to Neck Injury
While commenting on Vander Esch’s injury back in November, team owner Jerry Jones hinted at how the veteran’s latest neck injury — his fourth ailment over the past five seasons — could put his career in jeopardy.
“He’s an integral part of that defense out there,” said Jones during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan on November 14, 2023. “We just wish him well, and just the nature of his potential injury here causes me to really think longer term and beyond what it means for next week or beyond what it means for next month. It has everything to do with what’s best in his interest.”
Considering the severity of Vander Esch’s injury and the lack of depth at the linebacker position — Dallas recently made a run at free agent linebacker Shaquille Leonard — the Cowboys should consider signing David to a cheap contract.