5 moves Cowboys should make before 2021 season begins

Dallas Cowboys, Jaylon Smith (9) (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
Dallas Cowboys, Jaylon Smith (9) (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, Dallas Cowboys
Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, Dallas Cowboys (Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports) /

Trade away a linebacker

Following the results of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys have a surplus of talent at the linebacker position. The Cowboys used their first-round selection to acquire Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.

Then Dallas caught a falling Jabril Cox, a linebacker out of LSU that many believed should have gone much higher in the draft, in the fourth round. Suddenly, the linebacker corps is overflowing with talent.

Before the draft, this positional group already possessed two former Pro Bowlers in Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. Although both have had their issues over the past two seasons.

For Vander Esch, his health is a major concern. So much so that the Cowboys refused to pick up his fifth-year option, making this season a contract year for the former first-rounder. As for Smith, the issue is his massive contract combined with declining play over the past two years.

Then there’s the fact the Cowboys’ new defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, brought over safety Keanu Neal from his previous team, the Atlanta Falcons, and promptly moved him to linebacker. Suddenly, there is no room left on the roster to develop young, talented linebackers like Luke Gifford, Francis Bernard, Anthony Hines III, and Azur Kamara.

So moving on from one of their veteran linebackers seems like an obvious move if all remain healthy. While Jaylon Smith might be the choice for many fans, his contract makes that problematic (the Cowboys have a potential out after this season). And while Vander Esch could also be traded, getting enough value in return for an often-injured player might prove very difficult.