Cleveland Browns FA target No. 3: Leighton Vander Esch, LB
A first-round pick out of Boise State in 2018, Leighton Vander Esch burst onto the scene for the Dallas Cowboys. As a rookie, he had 140 tackles and two picks even though he wasn’t a starter for five of the 16 games he played in.
However, he then spent the next two seasons dealing with some injury concerns. LVE missed seven games in 2019 and six in 2020. His numbers in the games he did play were still solid but he wasn’t making the impact he did as a rookie.
2021 saw another change for him as Dan Quinn moved him around from middle linebacker to outside linebacker throughout the season. The results weren’t bad as he was much better under Quinn than the previous two campaigns. He also played in all 17 games, which helps him as he enters free agency.
Chances are low that he returns to Dallas since they didn’t pick up his fifth-year option and have Micah Parsons and Jabrill Cox available. He also might not break the bank since he had just 77 tackles and a pick this past season.
Cleveland could be in the market for a linebacker with Anthony Walker set for free agency and Vander Esch could be a low-risk player who has a potentially high payoff should he return to his earlier form.