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Leighton Vander Esch

#1 LB,

Free Agent

Photo of Leighton Vander Esch for fantasy football








27 yrs


6'4'' / 256 lbs


Boise State


Announces retirement from NFL

RotoWire Logo Published: 2024-03-18

Vander Esch (neck) announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday, Todd Archer of reports.

Vander Esch, a 2018 first-round pick, earned a Pro Bowl selection and second-team All-Pro honors, but he now retires from the NFL after six seasons after having been released by the Cowboys last week. Injuries disrupted the promising linebacker's career, including the 2023 campaign, in which he missed the final 12 games due to a recurring neck issue. Vander Esch retires with 71 regular-season appearances, 469 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 13 passes defensed and three forced fumbles under his belt, and as a forever 'what-if' for Cowboys fans imagining scenarios wherein the former Boise State had managed to stay healthier.

Weekly Stats 2022

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Performance Splits 2020 to 2022

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Career Stats

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Cut by Dallas

RotoWire Logo Published: 2024-03-15

The Cowboys released Vander Esch (neck) with a failed physical designation Friday, Todd Archer of reports.

The 2018 first-round pick missed the final 12 games of the Cowboys' season in 2023 due to a neck issue, and he's now been cut loose with a failed physical designation. Vander Esch has missed three-plus games in four of his six years in the NFL, appearing in 71 of Dallas' 99 games during that span. The 28-year-old linebacker is now free to sign with another team once he moves past his neck injury.

Won't return this season

RotoWire Logo Published: 2023-11-14

Vander Esch (neck) is officially out for the season, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stated Tuesday, Jon Machota of The Athletic reports.

Vander Esch, who has a long history of neck injuries and was born with cervical spinal stenosis, was not expected back anytime soon despite being eligible to return from injured reserve this week. There is concern that this latest neck injury may force the 27-year-old into retirement, but Jones declined to comment when asked about that possibility.

Return not imminent

RotoWire Logo Published: 2023-11-06

Vander Esch (neck) remains without a concrete timeline for a potential return from injured reserve, Jon Machota of The Athletic reports.

The only certainty regarding Vander Esch and a potential return is that it will not occur within the next couple weeks. He has a history of neck issues and sustained another one in Week 5 against the 49ers, so it is not surprising to see the Cowboys err on the side of caution here. Thus, Damone Clark will continue to fill in on the edge opposite Micah Parsons for the foreseeable future.

Placed on injured reserve

RotoWire Logo Published: 2023-10-16

The Cowboys placed Vander Esch (neck) on injured reserve Monday.

Vander Esch has a history of neck issues and sustained another injury to it last Sunday night against San Francisco. He'll be required to miss at least the next four games and won't be eligible to return until Week 11 against the Panthers. Rashaan Evans was added to give the Cowboys some experienced depth at the position.

Coach confirms IR placement looming

RotoWire Logo Published: 2023-10-12

Coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday that Dallas plans to place Vander Esch (neck) on its injured reserve list, Michael Gehlken of The Dallas Morning News reports.

As suspected, the neck injury that Vander Esch sustained in Week 5 at San Francisco is severe enough that he'll need to go to the injured reserve list, meaning he'll be forced to sit out at least the Cowboys' next four games. Until he's healthy enough to play again, 2022 fifth-rounder Damone Clark will likely see an expanded role at linebacker.

Expected to land on IR

RotoWire Logo Published: 2023-10-09

The Cowboys are expected to place Vander Esch (neck) on injured reserve, Michael Gehlken and Calvin Watkins of reports.

Vander Esch injured his neck in the second half of Sunday's Week 5 loss to the 49ers after colliding with teammate Micah Parsons. He subsequently underwent X-rays, which fortunately were negative. However, he was born with cervical spinal stenosis, which leads to increased pinched nerves, and has dealt with neck issues since college. As a result, the Cowboys appear in line to exercise caution with their starting weakside linebacker by sending him to IR to focus on a full recovery. His absence is sure to be felt, as he was the defense's signal caller and second leading tackler on the season. In his absence, Malike Jefferson is likely to be the next-man-up.

Unlikely to return

RotoWire Logo Published: 2023-10-08

Vander Esch (neck) is questionable to return to Sunday's contest with the 49ers, Michael Gehlken of The Dallas Morning News reports.

Vander Esch suffered a neck injury in the second half of Sunday's Week 6 game in San Francisco and he's unlikely to return. The team will likely update his status following the contest.

Scores first career TD in rout

RotoWire Logo Published: 2023-10-02

Vander Esch recorded a team-high seven tackles (four solo) and returned a fumble 11 yards for a touchdown in Sunday's 38-3 win over the Patriots.

The second-quarter TD was the first of two defensive scores for the Cowboys in the second quarter as they put the game away before halftime, and it was also the first touchdown of Vander Esch's career. The veteran linebacker only has 20 tackles through four games, but Dallas has dominated three of those contests and the defense hasn't been on the field all that much. That could change in Week 5 against the undefeated 49ers, as Vander Esch and the rest of the Cowboys' linebacking corps try to contain the likes of Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle.

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