The Dallas Cowboys have plenty of questions to answer about the makeup of their roster when free agency begins on March 15, but have more housekeeping to do before then. Tuesday opened the window for NFL teams to franchise tag players up until March 7. Dallas has plenty of free agents for consideration of the tag but one seems unlikely to get it. That would be tight end Dalton Schultz.
Per FanSided’s Matt Verderame, the Cowboys will likely not be using the franchise tag on Schultz. If Dallas refuses to tag him, he will become an unrestricted free agent. Not tagging Schultz would avoid paying him $13 million, much more than what he made on the tag last year at $10.1 million.
Letting Schultz walk would not be all gloom and doom for the franchise. Dallas still has three tight ends on the roster for next season. Jake Ferguson was drafted in the fourth round last year, and Peyton Hendershot fought his way onto the 53-man roster after an impressive camp and preseason. Sean McKeon has been with the team the past three seasons, but only has one career touchdown.
The question now becomes who among this group becomes the main security blanket for Dak Prescott in 2023? While Schultz has not put up numbers resembling the likes of Travis Kelce or George Kittle, he has become a reliable target in the passing game. Since he arrived in Dallas as a fourth round pick out of Stanford, Schultz has quietly become one of the Cowboys’ biggest weapons on offense.
NFL rumors: Cowboys unlikely to franchise tag Dalton Schultz
The 2021 season marked his career best. Schultz was targeted 104 times and hauled in 78 receptions for 808 yards and eight touchdowns. While his numbers fell off a bit this past season, Schultz was arguably the team’s best second best passing option for Prescott behind CeeDee Lamb.
The door is now open for Ferguson and Hendershot to take the next step in 2023. Both players had supporting roles last season, but showed potential. While there is always the option of replacing Schultz with an equally-talented tight end through free agency, it is hard to see Jerry and Stephen Jones spending money there when there are more important needs heading into this offseason. However, bringing in a veteran on a one-year bargain deal is not out of the question.
If the Cowboys do not tag Schultz, the next logical choice would be running back Tony Pollard. Despite suffering a broken leg and high ankle sprain in the divisional loss to San Francisco, Dallas has expressed interest in resigning Pollard. Placing the franchise tag on him would only cost the organization $10.9 million as opposed to $2 million more for Schultz.
Schultz will no doubt have a handful of offers if he hits the market. While Dallas cannot duplicate him, they can replace him. What Dallas does about it this offseason will be answered more thoroughly in March.