Leighton Vander Esch continues to be the subject of trade rumors, but the latest rumblings are the Dallas Cowboys have no plans to deal the linebacker. NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported the Cowboys indicated Vander Esch is part of the team’s plans “next year and in the future.”
“Addressing the Leighton Vander Esch trade rumors, per a source informed…yes there have been other teams interested in the linebacker but I’m told the Cowboys are not interested in a trade and he’s still very much a part of the defensive plan next year and in the future,” Slater detailed on Twitter.
The Cowboys declined Vander Esch’s fifth-year option earlier this offseason prompting plenty of speculation about his future with the team. Prior to this decision, the Cowboys noted they would be interested in retaining the linebacker beyond this season. This will continue to be put to the test given the Cowboys just drafted Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox as both rookies are expected to make an immediate impact this season.
The Cowboys Declined Vander Esch’s Option, But Are Open to Signing the LB to a Team-Friendly Deal
Most recently, Vander Esch was mentioned as a potential fit for the Steelers. CBS Sports’ Patrik Walker reported Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith could be moved by the mid-season trade deadline. Despite the team’s public support for both players, it is hard to imagine the Cowboys will keep all of their linebackers if the rookies perform at a high level.
“And speaking of LVE, the decision by the Cowboys to not exercise his fifth-year option immediately thrusts him into a contract year in which he’ll now compete directly with Parsons for the right to remain with the club in 2022 and beyond; but this fight isn’t exclusive to the hunter of wolves,” Walker explained. “It also extends to Jaylon Smith, who’s salary is guaranteed for 2021 but that doesn’t preclude a potential trade before the mid-season deadline, sources tell CBS Sports, and certainly applies pressure for him if he’s still on the roster in 2022 — when he’s set to hit the team’s salary cap for a chunky sum of $11.8 million.”
The Cowboys dropped hints they could decline the linebacker’s fifth-year option even before making it official. Prior to the decision, the Cowboys indicated they are interested in a more long-term, team-friendly deal to keep Vander Esch in Dallas beyond this season.
“Well, anytime you make a decision like that it’s the full body of work,” Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones explained in the team’s pre-draft press conference. “Certainly like Sean [Lee], Leighton has had some unfortunate injury situations. Certainly, we’ll take a look at that and put it all into the mix in terms of where we’re going to be under the salary cap, not only this year but next year, and make a decision that’s in the best interest of our team. Whether we exercise an option or not, it doesn’t mean at all that we’re not interested, if we didn’t, in keeping Leighton around here. Obviously, if we do, that solidifies that he’s here 110% but certainly, we’ll get in a room and go over that and make a decision.”
LVE on His Future: ‘I’m Just Controlling What I Can Control’
As things stand now, Vander Esch is set to become a free agent after the 2021 season. If the Cowboys linebacker is worried about his future, he is not showing it publicly.
“I’m just controlling what I can control, and the rest will take care of itself,” Vander Esch said after a recent offseason practice, per USA Today.
Vander Esch sees the Cowboys’ new additions as moves that will “make everyone better.” The Cowboys also added Keanu Neal who new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn noted will play the majority of his snaps at linebacker as well.
“I’m just pumped to be a part of a group that has the athleticism and the potential that we have going into this year,” Vander Esch added. “I mean, I think it’s fun: competing with each other, not against each other. I think that’s the thing about being a good teammate. You’re not trying to compete against somebody that’s on your team. You’re trying to compete with them, because I think that makes everyone better.”