AP sources: Cowboys keep Wilson, Vander Esch in free agency
The Dallas Cowboys are keeping two of their own in free agency by agreeing to contracts with safety and leading tackler Donovan Wilson and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.
Wilson and the Cowboys agreed to a $24 million, three-year deal, a person with knowledge of the agreement said Tuesday. Another person says Vander Esch is returning for $11 million over two years.
The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because terms of the contracts weren’t released.
Wilson rose from a sixth-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2019 to a starter in his second season. The 28-year-old started all 17 games last season and led NFL safeties with five sacks, tying Bill Bates’ 1984 club record for the position.
The agreements with Wilson and Vander Esch continue a trend of the Cowboys preferring to keep their own free agents on long-term deals over players from other teams.
Defensive end Dorance Armstrong and cornerbacks Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis are among the recent draft picks to get second contracts on the Dallas defense.
Vander Esch, the club’s 2018 first-round pick, returned on a one-year deal last season coming off neck issues and had a good enough season to get a two-year deal this time.
Wilson was limited to nine games in 2021 with groin, chest and shoulder injuries as the Cowboys returned to the playoffs following a two-year absence.
With Dallas emerging as a playoff contender again last season, Wilson was a key member of a defense that carried the Cowboys to a 4-1 record when quarterback Dak Prescott missed five games early with a broken thumb.
The Cowboys tied for third in the NFL with 54 sacks, their most since 2008. Dallas beat Tampa Bay 31-14 in a wild-card game before falling 19-12 to San Francisco in the club’s NFL-record seventh consecutive divisional-round loss.
Vander Esch, who didn’t have the fifth-year option on his rookie contract picked up, had 100 tackles in his fifth season, reaching the century mark for the first time since his rookie year.
The former Boise State standout emerged as the signal-caller in defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s scheme, earning praise from Quinn for setting the defense’s tone.
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