The Dallas Cowboys offseason just started, but it’s already February. Before you know it, the Super Bowl will have come and gone, and fans will initiate the countdown to the start of the new league year, and therefore free agency.
The Cowboys have several big-time players set to hit free agency. The one whom could cash the biggest check, though, is likely Dalton Schultz.
If Tony Pollard leaves, he’ll fall victim to the running back market. Similarly, Donovan Wilson is more of a free-roaming defensive back than an outright free safety. As we’ve seen with Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick, free safeties dictate the market. Wilson doesn’t fit that bill.
Leighton Vander Esch could get a big pay day in free agency, but teams could be reluctant to hand him a blank check given his injury history.
Schultz, on the other hand, has cemented himself in the second tier of tight ends, and teams are typically willing to spend big at the position in the name of equipping their quarterback with a security blanket and red zone threat.
With that in mind, Schultz is likely to sign a handsome contract. In fact, Pro Football Focus projects the former fourth-round pick to ink a four-year, $58 million contract ($14.5 million annually), with $36 million guaranteed.
Should the Cowboys re-sign Dalton Schultz in free agency?
Schultz is a heck of a player, and has come up with some clutch grabs over the last two seasons, when he really burst onto the scene. That said, there’s no way the Cowboys should acquiesce to his contract demands, assuming they fall within the range of PFF’s projections.
Tight ends are at a premium in today’s NFL, but the position is by no means high in the pecking order of importance to winning. Travis Kelce is an outlier to that, obviously. The likes of Mark Andrews (Ravens), George Kittle (49ers), and Darren Waller (Raiders) are studs in their own right, but having an upper echelon pass-catching tight end — Kelce being the lone exception — is more of a luxury than a need.
Unless they’re absolutely vital to a passing game, like Andrews in Baltimore, or one of the game’s premier run-blockers in Kittle’s case, it would behoove teams to avoid splurging on tight ends if they can help it.
For as gaudy as Schultz’s numbers look spanning 2021 and ’22, he’s struggled with overall consistency. In fact, his six drops this season were the most among tight ends. His 66.3% catch rate when targeted ranked 35th, his five penalties were the fourth-most and his 91.0 passer rating when targeted finished 31st at the position. Not to mention he averaged just 3.3 yards after the catch.
Does that scream $14.5 million per year and $36 million guaranteed? Not exactly, and the Cowboys have two up-and-coming youngsters in Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot to boot. We’d much rather Dallas draft one of the many talented TE prospects, or take a one-year flier on Hayden Hurst or Irv Smith Jr.
Again, we love Schultz as much as the next Cowboys fan, but letting him walk would allow for maximum roster building, and Dallas needs that more to get over the playoff hump more than paying Schultz near-top-of-the-market money.