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Leighton Vander Esch’s future is still in Dallas, but with a very different (and familiar) role

It was just two years ago that Leighton Vander Esch was coming off an impressive rookie year where he and Jaylon Smith seemed to emerge as a foundational linebacker tandem for the Cowboys defense. Flash forward to today, and Smith is one of the most controversial players on the roster after a steep decline in play and Vander Esch has missed at least six games each of the last two seasons. Both watched their potential replacements (Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox) get drafted this offseason, which is why both have seen their names come up in trade rumors.

Neither has actually been moved - yet, that is - and the news coming out on Wednesday is that the Cowboys have declined teams’ interests in trading for Vander Esch, even after declining his fifth-year option earlier this summer.