Cowboys release LB Vander Esch, WR Gallup



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FRISCO, Texas — In 2018, the Dallas Cowboys drafted linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and wide receiver Michael Gallup in the first and third rounds, respectively. On Friday, the Cowboys released both players.

Vander Esch was released with a failed physical designation, while Gallup was listed as a post-June 1 cut. The Gallup decision opens up $9.5 million in cap space this season, but he will count $8.7 million against the 2025 salary cap.

Vander Esch, 28, dealt with a number of injuries throughout his six-year career with the Cowboys, including a neck issue last season after he was pushed from behind leading to an awkward collision, which ultimately ended his season after five games.

As a rookie, he was named to the Pro Bowl, leading the Cowboys with 176 tackles, but neck issues that were a concern entering the draft continued to be an issue. In 2019, he missed seven of the final nine games with a neck injury that required surgery. In 2022, he missed the final four regular-season games with a stinger but returned for the two playoff games.

In the second quarter of the Week 5 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, left tackle Trent Williams pushed Vander Esch from behind, and his head collided with Micah Parsons’ hip. The Cowboys prepared for Vander Esch’s departure by signing veteran Eric Kendricks to a one-year deal.

An injury played a part in the Gallup move as well.

After tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee late in the 2021 season, the Cowboys signed him to a five-year, $57.5 million deal in 2022, but he was unable to regain the form that saw him average 15.5 yards per catch. After the injury, Gallup caught 73 passes for 842 yards and six touchdowns and did not record a 100-yard game in the regular season in 2022 and 2023. In the wild-card loss to the Green Bay Packers in January, he caught six passes for 103 yards.

His best season came in 2019 when he caught 66 passes for 1,107 yards and six touchdowns.

The Cowboys gave Gallup permission to seek a trade, which turned out just to be a prelude to his release. If he had been on the roster through Saturday, $4 million of his $8.5 million salary would have been fully guaranteed.

Without Gallup, the Cowboys hope their 2022 second-round pick, Jalen Tolbert, can continue to ascend after catching 22 passes for 268 yards and two scores last season following a rookie season in which he caught just two passes. The Cowboys have Lamb and Brandin Cooks back as their top receivers in 2024 but could look to a deep draft class to add to their receiver group.



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