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High Low

High Low: Drafting LB in 2024 top priority for Dallas?


FRISCO, Texas — There were some tough lessons learned by the Dallas Cowboys in 2023, and one was rooted in just how important the linebacker position is in the NFL. It's something they've already begun revisiting following their reunion with defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who is notoriously feverish about stellar linebacker play.

But with Leighton Vander Esch no longer in the mix and a dire need at the position, though Zimmer's grab of Eric Kendricks certainly stops a good bit of the bleeding, it's fairly clear that the front office is looking to bolster the center of their defense for an all-important 2024 season.

The brand-new series "High Low" dives into it, with each edition to follow focusing on a different position group leading up to draft week.

Odds: Extremely High

  • Micah Parsons: Yes, he's still technically listed as a linebacker on the Cowboys' roster, at least until further notice. That being the case, I'll include him in this outlook although it's truly a pass rusher off of the edge, so there's not going to be a lot of accounting for Parsons' impact at the LB position going forward, especially with the loss of Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler to free agency; and that only increases the likelihood of the Cowboys drafting a linebacker.
  • Eric Kendricks: The addition of Kendricks to the roster looms large here, but it shouldn't stop Dallas from addressing the position in the draft. Kendricks arrives to not only provide a very capable (and much-needed) complement to Damone Clark in the wake of Leighton Vander Esch's release/retirement, but he can also mentor the younger LBs while helping them acclimate quickly to how Mike Zimmer coordinates a defense. He may not still be at a First-Team All-Pro level (time will tell), but he's still very much an impact player in this league.
  • Damone Clark: In the absence of an injured LVE and the failed experiment involving Rashaan Evans, the onus was on Clark to instantly become the best linebacker on the team and largely because, well, he was the only actual linebacker on the team, post-Evans. Markquese Bell was tasked with helping as a convert from safety and that worked until it didn't, as the Cowboys truly found themselves wishing DeMarvion Overshown was available. Clark took steps forward in 2023, but he'll readily admit there's a lot of meat left on that bone for 2024.
  • DeMarvion Overshown: One of, if not the, most promising rookie in the Cowboys' 2023 draft class, Overshown effectively set both training camp and the NFL preseason on fire before suffering a torn ACL against the Seattle Seahawks in second preseason outing. He is on track to be at full health for his second training camp, but it's unknown how long it will take for him to get back to top form physically while also having the added challenge of the coming season acting as his actual rookie year.
  • Buddy Johnson: A 25-year-old NFL journeyman to this point, Johnson is hoping to make some waves that will at least lead to another stint on Dallas' practice squad, where he spent the back half of his 2023 season. He was elevated for two games last season due to the aforementioned injury issues at the position, but his lack of experience leaves him as purely a conversation for depth/insurance at linebacker. Anything more would simply be a plus for Zimmer and the Cowboys.

There are other positions of high priority for the Cowboys to address in the draft, without a shadow of a doubt, but not many rank as highly as filling the void, for both now and especially for later, at linebacker.

That's if they've learned anything at all from last season's woes.

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