Ranking the best available linebackers for the Cowboys in 2024 free agency

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The Dallas Cowboys have no choice but to improve their linebacker personnel. Longtime starter Leighton Vander Esch could be forced to retire after his latest neck injury, while Damone Clark didn't make the second-year leap that was expected of him after a promising rookie year in 2022.

Former safety Markquese Bell performed admirably in Vander Esch's stead, but his lack of size loomed large in the playoffs. The Cowboys' lack of presence at defensive tackle only made Bell's job harder, but opposing offenses sought out his smaller frame and seemingly rushed at him.

Dallas could select a linebacker in the NFL Draft, but they have other needs, including offensive tackle, defensive tackle, running back and receiver. Even if they draft a linebacker, this free agent class is too stacked for them to sit idly by until April.

With that, here's a ranking of the best available free agent LBs for the Cowboys. This isn't a vanilla ranking of the top free agents. Rather, a list of which linebackers would best fit what Dallas needs in the second level of its defense.

Disclaimer: Buccaneers free agent Lavonte David did not make the list. The 34-year-old would be a dream signing for Dallas, but he's on the record saying he'll retire if he doesn't re-sign with Tampa Bay so that dream is out the window.

5. Josey Jewell

Josey Jewell profiles as the most like-for-like Leighton Vander Esch replacement. He dons the green dot as the defense's signal caller or field general. He's excellent at sniffing out running plays and acts quickly to put fires out while they're still gathering oxygen. Jewell doesn't blitz often, but he's efficient when he does (21 pressures and six sacks since 2022) and he's strong in zone coverage, which can't be said for most linebackers in the 2024 free agent class.

4. Jordyn Brooks

A Houston native who played at Texas Tech, Brooks is coming off a 2023 season in which he logged career highs in coverage grade and pass-rush grade, per Pro Football Focus. Brooks tore his ACL in Week 17 of the 2022 season and somehow didn't miss a single game in 2023. He gets downhill in a pinch and his range allows him to cover sideline-to-sideline chasing ball-carriers. He's not great in coverage, but Fred Warner's don't grow on trees. It speaks volumes that Brooks is PFF's fourth-highest-ranked LB in this class, ahead of Azeez Al-Shaair, Devin White, Willie Gay and Jerome Baker.