Cowboys Starter Could Leave Dallas to Join New Team

Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz

Getty Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz

Ranked among ESPN’s top-50 NFL free agents, Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz is a solid bet to be playing elsewhere next season.

The “best fit” for Schultz, according to league insider Jeremy Fowler, is not in Dallas — it’s in East Rutherford, starting for the New York Jets. Which is a reality that might soon materialize.

“Expect the Jets to be in the market for a safety valve over the middle for Zach Wilson, either in the draft or free agency,” Fowler wrote on February 15. “Dallas wants to re-sign Schultz, perhaps the most complete tight end in the class, but it can’t keep everybody.”

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Potential Scheme Fit with Jets

Having snatched Blake Jarwin’s job, Schultz is coming off a breakout season in which he finished second on the Cowboys in receptions (78), adding 808 yards and eight touchdowns across all 17 games. He graded out as Pro Football Focus‘ sixth-highest-rated TE.

In New York, Schultz — particularly if he signs a lucrative contract — would arrive atop the depth chart, leaping past Ryan Griffin and Kenny Yeboah while providing a sure pair of hands for sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson.

“Schultz can operate as a middle-of-the-field target for Wilson on play-action throws, and he’s slippery after the catch,” ESPN’s Matt Bowen wrote. “Schultz plays with good coverage recognition and is a much-needed upgrade at the position in Mike LaFleur’s offense. Plus, he is an adequate run blocker.”

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Contract Projection

The cap-strapped Cowboys are likely to allow Schultz to shop his wares on the unrestricted free-agent market in March. The 25-year-old will join a pool of household names such as Jimmy Graham, Eric Ebron, and Jared Cook.

Age and upside should work in Schultz’s favor, however, with Pro Football Focus projecting him to land a four-year, $52 million deal that includes $32.5 million in total guarantees.

“Schultz took full advantage of Blake Jarwin‘s absence in the middle of the 2021 season and made a name for himself,” PFF noted on February 14. “Schultz’s 77.0 receiving grade ranked eighth among tight ends in 2021, with his 78 receptions coming in at third place. The former fourth-round pick initially seemed like a limited athlete with all the intangibles that come with a Stanford tight end, but he’s blossoming into a solid all-around player at the position.

“Schultz was a backup until 2020 and he didn’t break out until 2021 where he’s been one of the better all-around tight ends in the league. He’s a mid-tier starter who has shown that he can be a dependable receiver and run-blockers.”

Considering its own bevy of unsigned talent — wide receiver Michael Gallup and/or defensive end Randy Gregory could garner first priority — Dallas probably cannot afford to match a $13 million-per-year offer for Schultz.

For that reason, Bleacher Report recently linked the Cowboys to former Eagles and Cardinals TE Zach Ertz, whose estimated price tag is nearly half of Schultz’s.

“The issue here is a matter of dollars and cents,” BR’s Kristopher Knox wrote on February 14. “Ertz is still capable of playing at an extremely high level—he tallied 574 and three touchdowns in 11 games with Arizona this season. However, he’s an aging player with a projected market value of $7.6 million annually.”