Sources: Cowboys trade for CB Gilmore, re-sign LB Vander Esch

FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys answered one of their big off-season questions by acquiring cornerback Stephen Gilmore from the Indianapolis Colts for a fifth-round draft pick, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Cowboys traded pick No. 176 to the Colts, one of two compensatory fifth-round selections earned last week, in exchange for Gilmore, who is entering the final year of his contract and has a base salary of $7.9 million.

The team announced that the Cowboys were also bringing back linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. A source told ESPN that the Vander Esch deal is for two years and is worth $11 million.

Gilmore, 32, started 16 games for Indianapolis last season and had two interceptions, one of which came against the Cowboys.

Gilmore will be paired with Trayvon Diggs, who has made the Pro Bowl the past two seasons, to give the Cowboys their best cornerback duo in years. Daron Bland led the Cowboys with five interceptions in 2023, playing mostly in the slot in his rookie season.

The Cowboys also have former second-round pick Calvin Joseph on their roster, but it is possible he could be released. Jourdan Lewis is recovering from a serious Lisfranc foot injury that required surgery, and Anthony Brown, a free agent, is working his way back from a torn Achilles.

A five-time Pro Bowler with the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots, Gilmore was named the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year after recording a league-high six interceptions and 20 pass deflections for the Patriots.

The addition of Gilmore will bolster coordinator Dan Quinn’s unit for a defense that led the NFL in each of the past two seasons. The Cowboys on Tuesday re-signed their key tackler, safety Donovan Wilson, to a three-year deal worth up to $24 million through 2022, and they are in talks to keep defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (six sacks last season) .

Vander Esch, after bursting onto the scene as a rookie in 2018 and leading the Cowboys in tackles while earning a Pro Bowl spot, has been sidelined after myriad injuries over the past two seasons kept him out of 13 games spanning the 2019 and 2020 seasons .

Vander Esch, who turns 27 in February, had 90 tackles while starting 14 games in 2022. He also had 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 3 quarterback pressures and a forced fumble. When he was not on the field, the Cowboys’ run defense was not the same as before, going 119.4 with him instead of giving up 132 yards per game on the field without him.

He developed into a leader in the Cowboys’ defense and was responsible for getting the players lined up correctly. He re-signed with Dallas last year on a one-year deal worth $2 million and earned an additional $300,000 in incentives when the team did not exercise a fifth-year option on him as a first-round pick.

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