Rookie minicamps have officially begun for teams, including the Dallas Cowboys. The class is headlined by first-round offensive lineman Tyler Smith, second-round defensive end Sam “De” Williams, and third-round wide receiver Jalen Tolbert. However, there is another day three pick who could be placed in a huge role in year two: fourth-round tight end Jake Ferguson.
Back in March, current starting tight end Dalton Schultz was placed on and signed a franchise tag. This will give him and the team until July 15th to reach a new deal. Otherwise, he will play under the tag, giving him $10.9 million next season for a one-year deal.
According to Over The Cap, the Cowboys (as of right now) will have -$2 million in cap space next offseason. Obviously, moves will be made to open up more space along with the league raising the cap like they do almost every year. However, the front office isn’t sitting pretty at the moment in terms of how flexible they can be next year as far as contracts go.
Schultz will more than likely demand more than what he is currently making, even on the tag. He will be expecting to be paid like a top-five tight end in the league, which is fair based on his play last season. Schultz finished third among tight ends in receptions (78), fifth in touchdowns (8), and sixth in receiving yards (808). He was also second on the team in receptions and targets (104).
I’m certain the Joneses will make an effort to re-sign the star pass catcher, but now they have something to fall back on. Let’s just say the chances of them giving Schultz big money next offseason have fallen a tad. It helps their case that Ferguson’s skillset is eerily similar to Schultz’s.
Dalton Schultz had a breakout season in 2021, but did the Cowboys just draft his replacement?
The way the Cowboys like their tight ends can be described in three ways: They can be a security blanket for the quarterback, they can hold their own while blocking, and they can make plays down the middle of the field. Ferguson is that, Schultz is that, and Witten was that. What better way to replace a starter than with a younger version of himself?
Now, I’m not saying Ferguson will replicate the star tight end’s success this season, but he certainly can. He’s already been turning heads during rookie mini-camp. According to NFL reporter Matt Lombardo, Ferguson “was a standout at rookie minicamp” and some involved with the team “believe he has a chance to be special”.
Ferguson was drafted with the 129th pick in April after a consistently productive career at Wisconsin. The former Badger had at least 30 receptions and 300 yards in each of his four seasons in college. In his collegiate career, Ferguson made 145 catches for 1,618 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was named a first-team All-Big Ten selection by coaches as a senior.
He fared well in the process leading up to the draft as well. The Wisconsin native impressed at the Senior Bowl, showing out in the game, logging three catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. The fourth-round pick ran a solid 4.71-second 40-yard dash at Wisconsin’s Pro Day. At the NFL Combine, Ferguson ranked highly among tight ends in the 3-cone drill (third) and the broad jump (fifth).
The front office will have a big decision to make from now until the next offseason. Schultz was key to this offense’s success and losing his production will sting. Addressing the issue with Ferguson was smart, but depending on how the Joneses see it, Schultz’s days as a Cowboy could officially be numbered.