It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys are entering training camp still in need of depth at the linebacker position, a unit now led Micah Parsons, who earned both a Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro nod as a rookie. But despite re-signing former first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch to a one-year deal this offseason, there are still questions at LB that need answering. They're hoping Malik Jefferson can help provide assistance in that arena, as the Dallas-area native signed a deal with the Cowboys for the 2022 season -- sources confirm to CBS Sports.
To make room for Jefferson, the Cowboys released running back JaQuan Hardy, a promising backup talent who spent his rookie season in 2021 on the team's practice squad.
Jefferson, 25, still boasts youth as an attribute despite having already spent time with six NFL teams to this point. He began his journey as a pro by getting a third-round nod from the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018, before going on to join the Cleveland Browns (2019), Los Angeles Chargers (2019 and again in 2020), Tennessee Titans (2020) and the Indianapolis Colts (2021).
Still hoping to find his footing at the NFL level, Jefferson enters Cowboys training camp with no starts under his belt but 35 games played -- logging 16 career tackles. A former standout at the University of Texas, Jefferson earned several honors in his time with the Longhorns, including first-team All-Big 12 (2017) and Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year (2017), evidence he's harboring talent within him. It will now be on defensive guru Dan Quinn to tap into it, but the road to making the active roster won't be easy for Jefferson.
The Cowboys are also looking forward to the return of Jabril Cox, who suffered a torn ACL as a rookie in 2021 but is looked upon to be a starter in 2022. They also re-signed special teams contributor Luke Gifford and then added Cox's former LSU teammate, Damone Clark, to the roster as a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, followed by the signings Aaron Hansford (Texas A&M) and Storey Jackson (Liberty) as undrafted free agents.
There is a path for Jefferson at the position, though, created by the injury to linebacker Devante Bond, who was moved to the team's injured reserve list on July 8, giving Jefferson a chance to enter camp and possibly find a more stable NFL home -- back at home.