Cowboys cap brilliant Day 2 of free agency by re-signing Leighton Vander Esch

Cowboys, Leighton Vander Esch. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Cowboys, Leighton Vander Esch. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

Remember a few days ago when the Dallas Cowboys re-signed Donovan Wilson to a three-year contract? Wait, that happened today? It sure feels like a week ago, because the Cowboys have been getting after it on Day 2 of the legal tampering period.

The Wilson news, though regarded as a colossal win for the front office, was overshadowed by Dallas trading for Stephon Gilmore. The excitement from that move is still palpable, but it might get drowned out some by the fact the Cowboys just re-signed Leighton Vander Esch.

It’s a two-year deal worth $11 million for Vander Esch, per The Athletic’s Jon Machota.

This is pretty tremendous value for both Dallas given some of the contracts free agent linebackers have inked thus far in free agency, and Vander Esch given his injury history.

Cowboys re-sign Leighton Vander Esch in free agency

To add some perspective to Vander Esch’s new deal, the Giants signed Bobby Okereke to a four-year, $40 million contract with $22 million guaranteed. The Bears, meanwhile, splurged on former Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in the form of a four-year, $72 million deal with $50 million guaranteed. That is now the biggest four-year contract for an inside linebacker in NFL history.

NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported early Tuesday the Cowboys were pushing hard to retain Vander Esch, but faced competition from another team.

After the news broke, Slater revealed the Texans made a last-minute push to steal the linebacker. The Steelers were also in the mix, but seemingly didn’t pose much of a threat; or as big of a threat as the Texans, who inked former Cowboy Noah Brown to a one-year deal Tuesday.

Vander Esch exceeded expectations in 2022 on a prove-it deal. He navigated a shoulder stinger late in the regular season, but still finished with 90 tackles (second on the team behind Donovan Wilson), and was an enforcer against the run. Dallas’ run defense was a tough watch when LVE was out of the lineup.

What an awesome day for the Cowboys. Normally dormant until the second and third waves of free agency, Dallas is refreshingly pushing the envelope to improve its roster this time around. Talk about a sight for sore eyes.

First Wilson, then Gilmore, now Vander Esch. What’s it going to be next, Jerry Jones? DeAndre Hopkins? Odell Beckham Jr.?

At this point, anything is possible.