UPDATE: The Cowboys gave running back Tony Pollard the franchise tag. Schultz was a possibility to be tagged, but now it looks like he’ll be able to explore his options in free agency.
Don’t look now but NFL Free Agency is just around the corner, marking the next opportunity for teams to bolster their roster in hopes of championship contention. One of the most prominent free agents likely to hit the market is Dallas Cowboys’ tight end, Dalton Schultz. What does his potential market look like, and what are the chances he could stay put or eventually move on?
2023 in review
Schultz appeared in 15 games for the Cowboys last season, finishing with 57 receptions for 577 yards and five receiving touchdowns. He finished second in the team’s receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, behind only CeeDee Lamb. His receiving yardage marked the second-highest of his career while his 10.1 yards per reception marked back-to-back seasons of him averaging double-digits in that category.
After the Cowboys finished 12-5 in the regular season, which was second in the NFC East, Schultz helped lead the team past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card round, before eventually falling to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round. In two playoff games, Schultz hauled 12 receptions on 18 targets for 122 yards and three touchdowns. In their Wild Card victory over Tampa Bay, Shultz led the Cowboys in receiving with seven receptions for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
Do the Cowboys want to keep him?
Dallas is in a bit of a bind with regard to their financial situation, as they are roughly $7 million over the cap. If they have any hope of agreeing to a multi-year extension with their tight end, it will require some financial maneuvering around the roster. The Cowboys will most certainly restructure the contract of Ezekiel Elliott, and if for some reason they can’t come to terms on an extension with Schultz, they could most certainly franchise tag him once again.
The reality is Dallas will likely use the franchise tag on running back Tony Pollard, who clearly displayed more upside last season in comparison to Elliott. It’s also important to note that the Cowboys used a fourth-round pick in last year’s draft on Jake Ferguson, so there is the possibility that the second-year pro becomes the eventual successor to Schultz.
The Houston Texans and Detroit Lions both make sense as potential landing spots for the veteran tight end, who could serve as an immediate boost to young rosters that are looking to make a leap next season. The Texans are in the midst of a rebuild and will surely use their 2023 first-round pick on their quarterback of the future. Giving him an experienced weapon in Schultz would help make the transition to the NFL a smooth one in year one.
The Lions were among the breakout teams last season after their high-octane offense moved their rebuild way ahead of schedule. Detroit just nearly missed out on a postseason appearance and achieved great success despite trading away tight end T.J. Hockenson in the middle of the season. Pairing a veteran like Schultz with other young dynamic weapons such as Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams, and D’Andre Swift could prove to be the final piece of the puzzle.