The linebacker room inside the Dallas Cowboys building has gotten pretty crowded this offseason. Dallas brought in Keanu Neal, Micah Parsons, and Jabril Cox through free agency or the draft to play on the second level of the defense.

That is in addition to Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith already on the roster. Sean Lee and Joe Thomas are two noteworthy losses, but there is certainly a large number of linebackers on the depth chart right now. The coaching staff will have important decisions to make in terms of snap counts and roles.

Neal has a connection to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, and Parsons was the team’s first-round pick. So, it seems logical to believe that those two will see the field plenty in 2021.

Therefore, it would make sense for the Dallas Cowboys to look to move on from one of the linebackers that have been with the organization for the past few seasons: Vander Esch or Smith. This would free up playing time for their two draft selections and allow Neal to play in a scheme that he is familiar with.


Dallas Cowboys
Aug 29, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) and outside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (55) on the field before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The overwhelming thought is that neither Leighton Vander Esch or Jaylon Smith will be on the Dallas Cowboys next season. At least, not both.

Dallas opted against picking up LVE’s fifth-year option on his rookie deal. The former Boise State star was the Cowboys’ first-round draft pick in 2018. Injuries have prevented Vander Esch from building on the successes that he had during his rookie campaign.

Jaylon Smith, meanwhile, inked a contract extension prior to the 2019 season. It was a head scratching move that saw Dallas pay the oft-injured linebacker beforeĀ their franchise quarterback. Smith had a fine 2018 season alongside a healthy Vander Esch, but he too has regressed on the field.

Dallas could have saved some money by designating Smith as a post-June 1st cut this offseason. That obviously did not happen, but the Cowboys have an opportunity to save money next offseason by cutting Smith before the fifth day of the 2022 league year.

The Cowboys could just get ahead of the situation and part ways with either of the two linebackers this offseason. It would free up snaps for the linebackers that they acquired this offseason and allow both Parsons and Cox to grow as rookies. That would have a chance to pay off dividends on the defensive side of the ball in Dallas.

The biggest obstacle in the Cowboys parting ways with either LVE or Smith this offseason is finding a trade partner. Both of the linebackers have injury histories that might scare off other teams from parting ways with draft — or any other — capital.

Featured image via Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
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