The highly-paid veteran linebacker, subject of never-ending speculation, was named among three Cowboys players — along with left tackle Tyron Smith and cornerback Anthony Brown — who “will be most impacted” by next week’s Draft.
The linebacker wasn’t a cap casualty this year, but if the Cowboys have to trim some fat next season, he will be on the chopping block. The club would save $5 million in 2022 by cutting him.
The 25-year-old’s play in 2020 was a contributing factor to a defense that was 23rd in yards allowed per play. He surrendered a passer rating of over 100 when targeted for the third consecutive year, although the Cowboys were awful against the run across the board.
Dallas has already addressed the linebacking corps through free agency. It signed Keanu Neal who is reportedly making the move from safety to linebacker. Leighton Vander Esch could easily be on this list as well. Smith was the 44th-ranked linebacker by PFF last season, while Vander Esch’s grade was ranked 53rd.
There are plenty of linebackers the Cowboys could be looking to add to the roster. Micah Parsons could be a target as early as No. 10, while Jamin Davis from Kentucky could be a target with the 44th pick.
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Jones Confirms Incoming Defensive Pick
While many league insiders believe Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is plotting a blockbuster acquisition of Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, executive vice president Stephen Jones reaffirmed the team’s commitment to bolstering its defense on Day One.
Dallas is set to go on the clock at No. 10 overall, likely after a slew of quarterbacks come off the board — perhaps as many as five in the top-10. This would be a fortuitous sequence, extending the availability of top defensive prospects like Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain and Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.
“You can never have enough defensive linemen, and we lost Chidobe in free agency — and obviously our ongoing, annual need for safety, which never seems to end either in terms of draft pick resource or dollar resource. It’s been at the low end of the totem pole,” Jones said Monday. “And then with the game becoming such a game that’s played in space, you can’t have enough of those linebackers that can cover.”
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Parsons the Pick?
Barring a surprising overreach, Parsons is likely to be there for the Cowboys’ taking in Cleveland. Arguably the top defensive prospect in this year’s class, Parsons compiled 99 solo tackles, 6.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, and five pass deflections across 2018-2019, his freshman and sophomore seasons. He opted out of the 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 21-year-old is the total package, able to effectively plug the run and cover opposing pass-catchers. He’s a rocked-up 6-foot-3, 244 pounds with sideline-to-sideline speed and the ability to double as an edge rusher. Ironically, considering their dualities, NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah compared Parsons to … Jaylon Smith — and soon, the former may end up taking the latter’s job.
— Micah Parsons (@MicahhParsons11) December 8, 2020
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL