With more big names in free agency landing with new teams, Dallas continues to re-sign familiar names. The Cowboys announced early this afternoon that they have re-signed Pro Bowl linebacker, Leighton Vander Esch. Vander Esch will stay in Dallas at least for one more season after signing a one-year deal.
Dallas has also made some moves for fresh faces to come to Dallas. The Cowboys needed another wide receiver and they got a solid veteran option. Dallas has signed former Steelers receiver James Washington to a one-year deal. In addition, Dallas has also signed veteran edge rusher Dante Fowler after losing Randy Gregory to the Broncos. Fowler was signed by Dan Quinn back in Atlanta in 2020 so a reunion is happening for another Quinn product.
Leighton Vander Esch Signing
Not a huge surprise Vander Esch is back in Dallas but then again it is. He was easily one of the names on the shortlist to be leaving Dallas. Money-wise it did not look promising but a deal is done. By signing him to only a one-year deal, that contract is essentially a “prove yourself” deal. If he does not produce at a Pro Bowl level then he will not be back in 2023, guaranteed.
In his career, Vander Esch has 349 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions. In his rookie year, Vander Esch looked to be a superstar in the making. He finished with 140 total tackles and two interceptions. From there, it has gone bad as he played only 19 total games in 2019 and 2020 combined. The 2021 season was his first complete season since his rookie year in 2018.
Neck injuries and concussions have plagued him much like former Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee. Like I said before, signing this one-year deal shows Dallas is willing to give him a chance. He has to show he is still worth their time and money moving forward. If he can stay injury-free as he did in 2021, he is a dynamic player who can be a vital piece to the Cowboys’ defense.
James Washington Signing
While James Washington might not carry the abilities or price tag of someone like Davante Adams, he is a veteran receiver that can earn his playing time. This one-year deal probably does not guarantee Washington will be in Dallas long-term. This is likely a quick pit stop for Washington but if it pans out to be a long-term deal because he plays well, I am all for it.
While in Pittsburgh, Washington did not light up the stat book. In 60 career games, Washington has recorded just 114 receptions for 1,629 yards and 11 touchdowns. He never truly fit into the Steeler’s offense and thus the stats reflected that.
There were reports last training camp that Washington requested a trade but nothing ever came of it. Thus it is no surprise that Washington has moved on from Pittsburgh. Washington is from Texas so this is a bit of a homecoming for him. Exchanging the black and yellow of Pittsburgh for the blue and silver in Dallas will be a fresh start for him. I am excited to see what he can bring to this offense.
Dante Fowler Signing
After losing Randy Gregory, Dallas re-entered their name into the edge rusher market. While they might not have the funds for a Za’Darius Smith, Fowler will do just fine. This deal is also one that was made this evening not long after the James Washington deal was done. Fowler will reunite with Dan Quinn and I bet that had a lot to do with Fowler choosing Dallas.
Taken third overall by the Jaguars in 2016, Fowler played his first two-plus years with the Jags. Fowler would then spend time with the Los Angeles Rams and then in Atlanta with Quinn as head coach in 2020 and in 2021 under Arthur Smith.
Fowler has 35 sacks in six seasons and Dallas needs a high level of production. In 2019, Fowler finished with a career-high 11.5 sacks and a career-high 58 tackles. Last season with the Falcons, he finished with 36 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 14 games. If he can return to that 2019 level, Fowler will fit in perfectly with Dan Quinn’s defense.
While these might not be groundbreaking moves, it is better than nothing. Dallas needed depth at wide receiver and Washington will do just fine. The Cowboys needed another talent at edge rusher and now Fowler will get that chance. Dallas will miss out on guys like Bobby Wagner but they are giving Vander Esch another chance. I do not think Dallas is looking to make a big splash in free agency but for now, they are filling gaps that needed to be filled.
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