The Dallas Cowboys aren’t focusing on the future with the playoffs right around the corner, but one star is being projected for a huge new contract.
The Cowboys offense has been one of the most dangerous in the NFL in 2023, thanks to high-quality players at nearly every position. Even among plenty of established talent, one name that sticks out is tight end Dalton Schultz.
Schultz is currently playing on the franchise tag, but Spotrac is projecting the 26-year-old tight end to receive a four-year deal for a total value of $60.5 million. It would be a big payday for Schultz, considering that the former Stanford star has earned $13.85 million to this point.
Under the projected deal from Spotrac, Schultz would become the highest-paid tight end in the NFL. Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert currently holds that title due to his four-year, $57 million deal.
However, Cowboys fans know that it isn’t as simple as signing the contract for Schultz and that he very well could not get that kind of deal with Dallas. Owner Jerry Jones and his front office elected for the franchise tag in 2022, and they could choose that route again.
Cowboys Have Options with Schultz
Coming into the 2022 offseason, Dallas had to decide on whether or not to give Schultz his second long-term NFL contract. It seemed like an agreement was possible initially, but the player and the team were clearly far apart as Schultz held out for a deal, forcing Dallas to either franchise tag him or let him walk.
They chose the franchise tag. Schultz is earning $10.93 million for the 2022 season, which is the average of the top five salaries at the position. The Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones could go for another year of Schultz on the tag to get a discount without committing to the 26-year-old.
Over the Cap projects that the price of the franchise tag for tight ends in 2023 will rise to $11.36 million. It’s a marginal increase in the context of the $220 million salary cap, but Dallas can’t currently afford it.
Jerry Jones and the Cowboys can make space by releasing or trading players, but the team’s salary cap space for the 2023 season is $6.38 million. Tagging Schultz again (or paying him Spotrac’s projected contract) would require the team to make room and say goodbye to some current roster members.
Plus, Dallas also has to balance upcoming new contracts for others. Running back Tony Pollard is set to be a free agent this upcoming offseason, and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb is also due for a new deal at some point in the next couple of years.
Dallas’ New Blood at TE
Choosing to franchise tag Schultz prompted questions about his future with the team, but electing to add two rookie tight ends in the 2022 NFL draft asked further questions on if he will be a Cowboy for much longer.
Dallas drafted Jake Ferguson in the fourth round before picking up Peyton Hendershot as a undrafted free agent. The two have ended up playing a big role in 2022, but primarily as blockers and facilitators rather than pass-catchers.
According to Pro Football Reference, Schultz leads the Cowboys tight ends with 544 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Hendershot and Ferguson have 273 yards between them.
Dallas may feel ready to commit to either or both of the rookies, but it hasn’t shown up in the box score quite yet.