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Report: Cowboys not expected to exercise Leighton Vander Esch’s fifth-year option

The cornerbacks weren't there, but Micah Parsons fell to the Cowboys at No. 12 in the 2021 NFL Draft, giving Dallas' D a much-needed infusion of talent that reminds Mike Florio of a certain Seahawks linebacker.

The Cowboys have until 4 p.m. ET to decide whether to exercise the fifth-year option on the contract of linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. Barring the unforeseen, the Cowboys will not pick it up, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News reports.

The option would guarantee Vander Esch $9.145 million for 2022.

Declining the option is not a surprise given Vander Esch’s injury history, and the Cowboys’ selection of linebacker Micah Parsons in the first round Thursday. The Cowboys also spent a fourth-round choice on linebacker Jabril Cox, and they signed Keanu Neal in free agency.

“He will be a linebacker,” new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said of Neal.

Vander Esch, 25, made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2018 after the Cowboys drafted him 19th overall. In the past two seasons, though, Vander Esch has missed 13 games with a neck injury.