Cowboys Announce Retirement of Leighton Vander Esch

Leighton Vander Esch, Cowboys, NFL
October 8, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (55) warms up before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys‘ defense has gotten a little thinner today. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who has been with them for six seasons, announced that he is medically retiring from the NFL.

Vander Esch, a first-round pick out of Boise State by the Cowboys in the 2018 NFL Draft, was a stalwart in the middle of their defense for years. He learned from Sean Lee and eventually took over as the leader of the second level of their defense.

Unfortunately, injuries derailed him throughout his career and are what is causing him to leave the game behind. In six seasons, with 71 games played and 65 starts, Vander Esch recorded 469 total tackles with 3.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.

NFL News & Rumors: Leighton Vander Esch & Dallas Cowboys Updates

The news of Vander Esch’s retirement was shared by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. He also shared a quote from owner and general manager Jerry Jones, who was happy to have Vander Esch representing his team for all of these years.

“We’re proud that he wore the star on his helmet,” Jones said in reference to Vander Esch’s retirement.

Vander Esch got off to a hot start in his career. As a rookie, he earned a spot on the All-Pro Second Team and was a Pro Bowler after recording 140 total tackles. Unfortunately for him, he was never able to replicate that level of production.

After playing in all 16 games as a rookie, Vander Esch would have only one more season, in 2021, that he didn’t miss at least one game in. In every other season of his career, he missed at least three.

NFL News & Rumors: Leighton Vander Esch & Dallas Cowboys Updates

Neck injuries were the most prevalent for Vander Esch during his time with the Cowboys. In 2016 he missed seven games because of a pinched nerve. In 2019, he underwent surgery to alleviate the nerve issues from 2016. 

His 2023 campaign was also cut short because of a neck injury, as he had been dealing with them even before he joined the NFL. During his professional career, Vander Esch also dealt with an ankle and groin issue.

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