The Dallas Cowboys are predicted to sign a notable star to a new $13 million contract.
As noted by Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger, Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz is a logical candidate to get the franchise tag for the second straight season. Dallas initially gave Schultz the franchise tag worth roughly $10.9 million for the 2022 season. They can give Schultz the franchise tag for the second straight season at an amount of $13.1 million in 2023.
Spielberger calls this a “bargain” contract for the Cowboys.
“Schultz’s importance to the Cowboys’ offense was on full display in the playoffs to the tune of 18 targets, 12 receptions and three touchdowns over two games, though there were certainly some missed opportunities against the San Francisco 49ers,” says Spielberger. “Schultz would very likely garner a deal with an average annual value above a second franchise tag, making it a bargain for a second consecutive season.”
Why Dalton Schults is a Valuable Asset to Cowboys
The 26-year-old Schultz is one of the better tight ends in the league. Although he got off to a slow start in 2022 — that was in large part due to injuries and playing with Cooper Rush at quarterback — he bounced back to end the season on a strong note.
Not only was he Dak Prescott’s most reliable weapon in the postseason, he caught seven passes for 56 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 17 win over the Tennessee Titans.
Schultz may not be a big-play threat at the position, but he’s a reliable pass-catcher that can find soft spots in zone defense. Furthermore, he’s a steady presence at the position, having played more regular season snaps than any other player at the position over the past three seasons, as Spielberger notes.
“Over the past three seasons, Schultz stacks up with the top tight ends in the NFL in a host of categories,” says Speilberger. “He’s logged more regular-season snaps than any player at the position over the span and ranks within the top 10 in yards after the catch, yards after contact and contested catch rate.”
Why It Benefits Cowboys to Use Franchise Tag on Dalton Schultz
According to Pro Football Focus, Schultz posted a 67.8 offensive grade during the 2022 season. That grade ranked Schultz 18th among 74 tight ends.
Furthermore, it doesn’t illustrate Schultz’s ceiling. As mentioned before, Schultz dealt with injuries and backup QB Rush starting five games. At his peak, Schultz produced a 78.2 offensive grade during the 2021 season, sixth-best among all tight ends.
According to Spotrac, Schultz’s projected market value is $15.1 million per year across four years for a total of slightly above $60.5 million. That would make Schultz the second-highest paid tight end in the league. In other words, the $13.1 million franchise tag would be an absolute steal for the Cowboys.
The big question is, which player will the Cowboys use the franchise tag on?
Another candidate for the franchise tag is none other than running back Tony Pollard. As valuable as Schultz is to the Cowboys, one could argue Pollard’s value is even greater for Dallas — especially when factoring in Ezekiel Elliott’s declining efficiency.
With Pollard coming off of a broken fibula injury, the Cowboys could find it beneficial to use the one-year franchise tag to see how he comes back from the injury before committing to him on a long-term basis. The cost of signing Pollard to the franchise tag is $10.1 million.
If Dallas does go the route of signing Pollard to the franchise tag, the more likely scenario sees the Cowboys allowing Schultz to walk in free agency.
The Cowboys have some big decisions to make and it’s becoming clear that they may not be able to bring back both Schultz and Pollard.