Dallas Cowboys: Expect wholesale changes in defensive personnel

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /
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Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Personnel Changes

Pending free agents: Sean Lee, Justin March, Joe Thomas

Here’s where things get hairy. Jaylon Smith has been poor again this season. Yes, he leads the team in tackles but at linebacker it’s not how many tackles you get, but rather how you get those tackles. Jaylon has not been the splash play machine many of us expected him to be.

Most of Jaylon’s tackles come well beyond the line of scrimmage since he’d rather give chase than hit a hole. He’s struggled in coverage and has displayed very little gap discipline against the run. All of that said, the Dallas Cowboys will probably keep him on for one more season. He’s improved lately and stands to profit enormously if Dallas can sort the DT position in front of him.

Speaking of one more season, 2021 may be Leighton Vander Esch’s last in Dallas as well. His play has been bad for two seasons now (while he was injured most of 2019, when he was in, he was playing terribly) and Dallas may not pick up his fifth year option.

Down the roster we can expect to see Justin March and Joe Thomas to both walk. The Dallas Cowboys will want to rebuild their corps for life after Jaylon and LVE and that means plugging in some rookies in these valuable reserve roles.

Sean Lee is the wild card here. He’s still a useful backup and an asset in the locker room. There’s no way he’ll justify his 2020 figure of $4.5 million again, but at a vet minimum he may be willing to stay on. Everyone expects Sean Lee to transition into coaching at some point so there’s extra value in keeping him in Dallas another year.

Finally, the secondary…