Dallas Cowboys Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A cornerstone of the Dallas Cowboys defense is calling it a career.

According to ESPN’s Todd Archer, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has announced his retirement. Vander Esch’s retirement comes just three days after he was released by the Cowboys, with whom he had spent the entirety of his six-year NFL career as a member of.

Originally selected by Dallas with the No. 19 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Boise State product found instant success with the Cowboys, earning second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in his rookie season. Over the course of his career, Vander Esch appeared in 71 games (65 starts), amassing 469 tackles, 13 of which came for a loss, 3.5 sacks, 13 pass defenses and three interceptions.

After starting the first five games of the 2023 campaign, the 28-year-old’s sixth NFL season came to a premature end when he suffered neck injury while colliding with Dallas pass rusher Micah Parsons during the Cowboys’ Week 5 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. A week prior, Vander Esch had recovered a fumble against the New England Patriots and returned it 11 yards for what would prove to be the first and only touchdown of his NFL career.

Following the news of Vander Esch’s retirement on Monday, the Cowboys took to social media to pay tribute to their former star linebacker.


[Todd Archer on X]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.