(CBSDFW.com)- The Dallas Cowboys won’t be picking up the fifth-year contract option of former first round pick Leighton Vander Esch. His agent, Ron Slavin, told ESPN of the team’s plans Monday which would allow the linebacker to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2021 season.

Vander Esch has missed 13 games due to injury over the past two seasons and that history is likely the main reason for the decision. In 2019, Vander Esch suffered a neck injury that required surgery and in 2020 he broke his collarbone causing him to miss six games. His best season came in his rookie year when he totaled 140 tackles, two interceptions and seven passes defensed after being selected with the 19th overall pick in that year’s first round.

The Cowboys have already locked fellow linebacker Jaylon Smith in to a five-year deal that runs through the 2024-25 season. The team then selected linebacker Micah Parsons with the 12th overall pick in this year’s draft and added a second linebacker in LSU’s Jabril Cox in the fourth round (No. 115).

Given Parsons’ draft position, you’d expect him to enter the starting lineup immediately. As for Cox, he was lauded for his coverage skills during draft weekend, making him a potential situational fit on passing downs when the team goes to a nickel or dime look. Either way, it appears that there is less opportunity to go around for Vander Esch going forward.

CBSDFW.com Staff