A Dallas Cowboys star could become “expendable” after the team signs a major free agent.
As noted by Harrison Reno of Sports Illustrated, the Cowboys could be preparing for life without tight end Dalton Schultz. The 26-year-old is currently playing under the franchise tag after Schultz and the Cowboys were unable to come to terms on a contract extension. Dallas has given an increase in playing time to rookie tight ends, Peyton Hendershot and Jake Ferguson, this season.
“The white-hot interest in free-agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. would lead you to believe that the Cowboys are confident in their financial flexibility,” says Reno. “But something has to give … and the emergence of two rookie tight ends helps make a case as to why the Cowboys may not re-sign Schultz.”
The three-headed trio may be a way for Dallas to lower Schultz’s value as he enters free agency while also making Odell Beckham Jr. more affordable in the long run.
“In reality, what Dallas has developed here is smart,” Reno continued. “Affordable rookie contracts represent a key way to ‘beat the cap’ … in this case maybe both eventually making Dalton Schultz expendable while making Odell Beckham Jr. affordable.”
Cowboys Featuring Three-Headed Attack at Tight End
Although Schultz finished with two touchdowns in the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving day victory over the New York Giants, the two rookie tight ends continued to see valuable playing time. Ferguson played 36 snaps while Hendershot played 20 snaps in the game. Meanwhile, Schultz saw 63 snaps.
While Schultz is clearly still the lead tight end, the reliance and heavy usage of the two young tight ends is sure to put a dent in Schultz’s leverage in contract negotiations. In nine starts this season, Schultz has produced 33 receptions for 310 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 34.4 yards per game. He’s on pace to post lower production across the board after racking up 78 receptions for 808 yards (47.5 yards per game) and eight touchdowns last season.
Schultz has seen action on 74 percent of offensive snaps in his appearances this season. That’s a slight decline from the 81 percent he saw last year. Meanwhile, Ferguson has played in 48 percent of the snaps and Hendershot has seen action on 32 percent of snaps.
Why Cowboys Could Devalue Schultz to Sign Beckham
Beckham remains a free agent but he’s looking for a long-term home. The 30-year-old receiver revealed during a recent interview with Complex Sports that he’s hoping his next destination is a place he can call home for the next several years.
“Whether it’s Buffalo, Green Bay calling, the Cowboys, or reunion with the Giants,” Beckham said, “I want to be able to spill these last three or four years into these next three or fours into something where I can buy a home, like somewhere I can call home.”
With that being the case, that means the Cowboys will likely have to sign Beckham to a deal worth more than a year in order to lure him to Dallas. The Cowboys are currently facing stiff competition in the sweepstakes for Beckham, with the Giants and Buffalo Bills also scheduled to have meetings with the three-time Pro Bowl receiver.
Both Ferguson and Hendershot have been valuable contributors, especially considering Schultz has missed two games this season due to injuries. Ferguson posted five receptions for 57 yards in the win over the Giants.
Schultz is certainly Dak Prescott’s favorite target in the passing game outside of CeeDee Lamb. However, it’s also obvious that Dallas is preparing for a possible future without Schultz by showcasing Ferguson and Hendershot.
Considering the Cowboys will be tasked with re-signing running back Tony Pollard in addition to offering Beckham a worthwhile contract, we could be looking at Schultz’s last days in a Dallas uniform.