Cowboys release LB Leighton Vander Esch, WR Michael Gallup

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The Dallas Cowboys released linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and receiver Michael Gallup on Friday.

The Cowboys said Vander Esch was released with a failed physical designation. According to reports, the move frees up $2.14 million in salary cap space.

Vander Esch missed the final 12 games of the 2023 season with a neck injury and has long had problems with his neck.

The Cowboys said Gallup will be listed as a post-June 1 cut. The move reportedly saves Dallas $9.5 million.

Vander Esch, a first-round pick in 2018, sustained his latest neck injury during a 42-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 8.

San Francisco left tackle Trent Williams blocked Vander Esch into the side of Dallas linebacker Micah Parsons on a fourth-quarter play. Vander Esch had his head down as he made contact with Parsons and fell to the turf.

Vander Esch, 28, also sustained a neck injury in 2016 while at Boise State and a more serious one with the Cowboys in 2019. He had a neck operation in 2020 to fix nerve issues.

In 71 career NFL games (65 starts) with the Cowboys, Vander Esch had 469 tackles, 13 for loss, plus 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions. He was a Pro Bowl selection as a rookie in 2018.

Gallup, 28, had big seasons in 2019 and 2020 when he combined for 125 receptions, 1,950 yards and 11 touchdowns.

But he was limited to nine games in 2021 due to an ACL tear and that contributed to his decline.

Over the past three seasons, he never accumulated 40 receptions or 500 receiving yards. He had eight receiving scores during the span.

Overall, Gallup had 266 catches for 3,744 yards and 21 touchdown receptions in 86 games (67 starts) over six seasons with the Cowboys. Gallup was a third-round pick in the same draft that produced Vander Esch.