What will David Njoku’s extension mean for Cowboys and Dalton Schultz?

Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

There has been quite a bit of movement and adjustments made to the Dallas Cowboys’ tight end room in the last year. After starting tight end Blake Jarwin went down with a hip injury, Dalton Schultz emerged as a trusted and reliable pass catcher for the team. Schultz had a breakout season heading into a free agency year, which left many question marks in the air for the Cowboys.

When a report in March showed that Jarwin would likely miss a good amount of the 2022 season due to the nature of his injury, the Cowboys’ front office was forced to act quickly. Not only was Jarwin eventually waived due to concerns about his long-term future, but the Dallas front office was also essentially forced to put Schultz on the one-year, $10.9 million franchise tag set for tight ends.

Because the tight end corps was looking extremely thin with rarely-used Jeremy Sprinkle and Sean McKeon behind Schultz, Dallas used collegiate talent to buffer the roster. The team added Jake Ferguson in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft and also signed Peyton Hendershot as an undrafted free agent.

Now, as we enter the month of June, Dallas only has until July 15th to work out a long-term deal with Schultz. If they don’t, the tight end will play on the franchise tag and it will likely hint that Dallas wants to go in another direction next year. Is that worth the risk of losing one of Dak Prescott’s favorite targets? That’s hard to say. But a recent move elsewhere in the NFL may make things even harder for the Cowboys.

Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku, who was also put on the franchise tag earlier this year, just signed a pretty lucrative long-term contract to stay with his team. According to the NFL, the contract is a four-year deal worth $56.75 million and $28 million guaranteed. That brings Njoku’s annual salary up from $10.9 million on the tag to over $14 million. That’s a huge pay increase, and it may bring an unfortunate trickle effect to Dallas.

Could David Njoku’s long-term contract with the Browns have an effect on Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz?

The new annual salary for Njoku makes him the fourth-highest paid player per year in the league behind big names like George Kittle, Travis Kelce, and Dallas Goedert. The $28 million guaranteed ranks him fifth among tight ends that are not on rookie contracts. So, why is this a problem for Dallas? Because as seen in the above tweet by Jori Epstein, Njoku was not nearly as good as Schultz in 2021.

In fact, although Njoku was a former first-round pick, he hasn’t had a top-tier season since 2018. With much better statistics and a much more critical role on a young and inexperienced depth chart, Schultz is likely well within his right to ask for way more on a long-term contract. Will the front office be willing to pay Schultz what he is worth? Or, will they take a gamble on their new talent being as good as their current options?

The Stanford product did mention back in April that he wanted to stay in Dallas long-term. He seems to be happy with the Cowboys. However, the front office doesn’t seem to be mentioning anything or in any rush to make moves towards a longer contract. Right now, Schultz claims he is just trying to focus on OTAs. Here is what he told reporters when recently asked about a long term deal:

"“I don’t pay attention [to] that off-the-field [stuff]. I let my agent handle all that [expletive] and I do my own thing. It’s been nice. I’ve been able to focus on my process and honestly, we have a lot of young guys and obviously we got a couple of new faces in the room.”"

It seems like Schultz doesn’t want to deal with the politics of whatever may come with this contract (if it happens). However, with a much better recent resume than Njoku, his agent may have some serious negotiating power moving forward.

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