5 Dallas Cowboys who won’t return in 2023
By Randy Gurzi
3. Leighton Vander Esch, LB
It was a bit of a surprise when it was announced that Leighton Vander Esch was returning to America’s Team. The 19th overall pick in 2018 was phenomenal as a rookie, posting 140 tackles and two picks. But then, things went in the wrong direction for him.
LVE struggled with injuries over each of the next two seasons and missed 13 games in that span. Then, heading into the 2021 campaign, the front office declined to pick up the fifth-year option in his rookie contract, making him a free agent after the year.
He did end up playing all 17 games, which was a great sign, but wasn’t as effective as we saw in 2018. Vander Esch finished with 77 tackles and an interception but it was still enough to convince the team to give him another shot.
The Wolf Hunter was signed to a one-year deal, which is good for both sides. He can continue to show he can be a durable player and the Cowboys need someone beside Micah Parsons with some experience.
However, it would really be a shock to see the relationship continue beyond this season. Instead, it feels as though he’s here to allow Jabril Cox to get healthy after suffering an injury as a rookie. Then, they can go forward with the two youngsters, allowing Vander Esch to find a new home.