On Tuesday, March 8, Ian Rapoport reported that the Dallas Cowboys officially placed the franchise tag on tight end Dalton Schultz. The Cowboy had a breakout year in 2021, becoming only the second player in the franchise since Jason Witten to have over 70 receptions (78) and over 800 yards (808) in a season. The tag for tight ends in the NFL is set at $10.9 million. That money is guaranteed to Schultz and the move keeps the tight end from hitting the free agent market.
Schultz stepped up when former starting tight end Blake Jarwin sustained a hip injury in October of 2021. Initially, there were reports that the Cowboys would not use the tag on Schultz. But when news broke last week that Jarwin would not be fully recovered for the start of the 2022 season, the narrative quickly changed. Dallas couldn’t face September without a starting tight end.
The former 2018 fourth-round pick went from zero to hero in his time in Dallas. He had just 13 total receptions in his first two seasons. In 2020 and 2021, he collected over 1,400 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. He was a consistent and reliable target for Dak Prescott throughout the year.
Although Schultz is on the franchise tag, another team could still sign him. However, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer, they would have to give up two first-round picks or come up with another deal that the Cowboys would be willing to settle for. As far as the tight end’s future with Dallas, the two sides have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal. If they don’t, Schultz is required to play the 2022 season on the one-year deal.
Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz becomes the third player at the TE position to be put under an NFL franchise tag
Tagging tight ends seems to be the trend this year. While having $10.9 million go to dead cap isn’t entirely ideal, it’s one of the less expensive positional tag options. It also helps teams avoid more lucrative, long-term contracts. This week, the Cleveland Browns’ David Njoku and the Miami Dolphins’ Mike Gesicki were both chosen for the franchise tag as well.
Schultz is now the seventh player in Cowboys history to be put on the tag. This has mostly been due to the Cowboys’ inability to sign their star players to long-term deals in a timely manner. In 2020, Prescott played on a massive $31.4 million tag. He was tagged again in 2021, but the Cowboys ended up signing the QB to a four-year, $160 million deal. Other Cowboys to be put on the tag were Dez Bryant, Anthony Spencer, Ken Hamlin, Flozell Adams, and DeMarcus Lawrence.
The talk seems to be mixed about this decision. Some are relieved that Dallas will have a tight end ready to go in September. Others feel Schultz isn’t a good enough blocker to be worthy of the tag. An important thing to note is that Spotrac had Schultz predicted to sign a contract in free agency worth $12.5 million a year. So, while $10.9 million is a lot of money, it’s technically less than the Cowboys could have had to pay.
Since teams only get one franchise tag per offseason, it will be interesting to see what happens with defensive end Randy Gregory, who was another player rumored to potentially get the tag. The decisions in Dallas have officially begun, so buckle up, Cowboys fans.