Cowboys sign former first-round pick as injury replacement for Leighton Vander Esch

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

If it wasn't demoralizing enough that the Dallas Cowboys got embarrassed by the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5, the injury bug chomped away in Santa Clara.

Special teams standout C.J. Goodwin is likely out for the year with a torn pec, while kick returner/receiver KaVontae Turpin and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch will each miss 4-6 weeks with a high-ankle sprain and neck strain, respectively.

Already thin at linebacker, the Cowboys hosted veteran Rashaan Evans for a free agent visit Wednesday with Vander Esch likely headed to IR.

A former first-round pick of the Titans in 2018, Evans ironically was drafted three picks after the Cowboys took Leighton Vander Esch that year. He played four years in Tennessee and posted 317 tackles, 15 for loss and 13 quarterback hits.

Still just 27 years old and with ample experience as an inside linebacker, Evans would be a perfect signing in the wake of Vander Esch's injury.

Cowboys expected to sign Rashaan Evans to the practice squad,

UPDATE: The Cowboys are now expected to sign Evans to the practice squad, per multiple reports. The roster move is pending a physical.

It's a bit surprising Evans is still a free agent, but there isn't a demand for off-ball linebackers in today's NFL. He was most recently with the Eagles on their practice squad, but was released less than a week after signing. Despite that, he's arguably the best available LB and would be an excellent addition for Dallas.

While Evans (seemingly) is everyone's preferred signing, the Cowboys are bringing in other linebackers for workouts Wednesday. Per ESPN's Todd Archer, the group includes Brandon Smith, Jordan Evans and Tanner Vallejo.

We wouldn't rule out two potential signings here, as C.J. Goodwin's likely season-ending injury creates a massive hole on special teams.

Getting back to Rashaan Evans, the Cowboys have a tremendous track record in terms of signing former first-round picks. Malik Hooker and Dante Fowler are two prime examples.

Hooker, the No. 15 overall pick by the Colts in 2017, has turned around his career in Dallas after injuries plagued him early in his career. He parlayed strong showings in 2021 and 2022 into a three-year $24 million extension in the offseason.

Fowler, meanwhile, remains an underrated component of Dallas' pass rush. He recorded a strip-sack of Mac Jones in Week 4 that Vander Esch returned for a touchdown. He produced six sacks and nine tackles for loss in 2022 as a part-time player and owns a 73.0 pass-rush grade in five games this season.

We'll just call that the Dan Quinn effect. Hopefully, the Cowboys sign Evans soon so Quinn can start working his magic on the former first-rounder. He's far and away the best option of the linebackers who are visiting The Star on Wednesday.

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