Dallas Cowboys did the inevitable: releasing LB Leighton Vander Esch, WR Michael Gallup

The Dallas Cowboys waited as long as they could before doing the inevitable with linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and receiver Michael Gallup.

Both were informed of their release on Friday.

Their departures were expected since the end of the 2023 season.

Vander Esch, who is expected to retire, was released with a failed physical designation. He missed final 12 games last year with a neck injury.

The Cowboys gave Gallup permission to seek a trade. But nothing materialized.

If he had been on the roster through Saturday, $4 million of his $8.5 million base salary would have been guaranteed.

Gallup was released with a post-June 1 designation, saving the Cowboys $9.5 million in room this year.

Vander Esch, 28, was picked in the first-round of the 2018 NFL Draft and took the league by storm as a rookie. He led the Cowboys with 178 tackles and made the Pro Bowl.

But neck issues that caused some teams to take him off their draft board surfaced in 2019 when he missed seven of the final nine games.

He returned after undergoing neck fusion surgery and after he was equipped with a brace on his shoulder pads as a stabilizer to protect his neck from snapping too far back.

Vander Esch played 10 games in 2020 and 17 in 2021.

In 2022, he missed the final four regular-season games with a stinger but returned for the two playoff games.

The end came in 2023 against the San Francisco 49ers when Vander Esch was pushed from behind by left tackle Trent Williams, causing his head to collide with edge rusher Micah Parsons.

Vander Esch missed the final 11 games of the season. He is expected to retire.

The Cowboys began to prepare for life after Vander Esch with the addition of linebacker Eric Kendricks to a one-year deal. Kendricks agreed to terms on Wednesday and signed his contract Friday morning.

Vander Esch was released a few hour later.

Gallup’s departure came as a result of a decline in production since tearing his ACL late in the 2021 season and the Cowboys deciding to sign him to a five-year, $57.5 million deal that offseason.

He caught just 73 passes for 842 yards in 2022 and 2023 combined and did not have a 100-yard season during the regular season in each of the past two years.

Veteran Brandin Cooks surpassed Gallup as the No. 2 receiver behind All-Pro CeeDee Lamb in 2023. Cooks returns in 2024 and the team is hoping Jalen Tolbert will step in as the No. 3 receiver.

Gallup was a third-round pick in 2018.

With Gallup and Vander Esch gone, the Cowboys have no members of the 2018 draft class on the team.

The Cowboys 2018 draft included guard Connor Williams in the second round, tight end Dorance Amstrong (who recently signed with the Washington Commanders) in the fourth round, tight end Dalton Schultz (now with the Houston Texans) in the fourth round, quarterback Mike White in the fifth round, linebacker Chris Covington and receiver Cedrick Wilson (New Orleans Saints) in the sixth round and running back Bo Scarbrough in the seventh round.