Cowboys’ $11 Million Playmaker Could Bolt for Super Bowl Contender: Analyst

Mike McCarthy

Getty The Cowboys could lose TE Dalton Schultz in free agency.

A Dallas Cowboys playmaker could be on his way out.

As proposed by Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox, Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz is a 2023 free agent that the Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions should be “eyeing” heading into free agency.

The 26-year-old Schultz is currently on the franchise tag worth slightly less than $11 million. The veteran tight end was slapped with the franchise tag after the Cowboys and Schultz were unable to come to a long-term contract agreement.

Knox explains why the Bengals could use an upgrade at tight end with Hayden Hurst currently serving as the starting tight end.

“The Bengals and their fifth-ranked passing attack don’t quite need another weapon,” said Knox. “However, Adding one of these three could provide an upgrade over tight end Hayden Hurst (414 yards, two TDs), who is slated to be a free agent anyway.”

As also mentioned by Knox, the Lions have a major void at tight end after trading T.J. Hockenson to the Minnesota Vikings prior to the trade deadline. Coming off of a 9-8 season, adding another playmaker at tight end could be the key to delivering Detroit a playoff appearance.

“The Lions could also look to target Schultz, Engram or Gesicki as a replacement for T.J. Hockenson, who was traded to the Minnesota Vikings midseason,” said Knox.

Dalton Schultz’s Production Saw Decline With Cowboys in 2022

Schultz was banged up for a portion of the season, missing two games due to a knee sprain. However, he bounced back towards the end of the season to finish with solid totals of 57 receptions for 577 yards and five touchdowns. That includes a seven-reception, 56-yard, two-touchdown performance in a Week 17 win over the Tennessee Titans.

However, his production and value did see a decline compared to last season. Schultz posted 78 receptions for 808 yards and eight touchdowns last season, producing 47.5 receiving yards per game on a 75 percent catch rate. By comparison, he posted just 38.5 receiving yards per game on a 64 percent catch rate this season.

Outside of his decline in statistics, the Cowboys also relied heavily upon their rookie tight ends, Peyton Hendershot and Jake Ferguson. Hendershot lined up on 26 percent of his offensive snaps with Ferguson lining up on 40 percent of offensive snaps.

Why Cowboys May Allow Schultz to Walk in Free Agency

It’s clear that while Schultz is one of the better starting tight ends in the league, he’s definitely not an elite one. His value is probably best served in the Cowboys’ offense, where quarterback Dak Prescott shows a high reliance on Schultz due to his propensity to use him as a safety blanket between the hash marks.

The fact that his production took a hit this season — combined with Dallas relying on their younger options — is sure to put a slight dent in his negotiations with the Cowboys.

However, according to Spotrac, Schultz has a projected market value of $15.1 million per season. That would make Schultz the second-highest paid tight end in the league.

If a team such as the Bengals or Lions prove to truly covet Schultz, it’s hard to envision Dallas offering Schultz $15 million a year to remain with the Cowboys. Especially when you factor in that Dallas still has to worry about re-signing top free agent Tony Pollard.

Schultz could be looking at his final games as a member of the Cowboys.

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