The Dallas Cowboys may be in the market for a new tight end depending on how things play out with free agent Dalton Schultz. One alternative option for the Cowboys to explore is Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard.
There is a reason to believe the Cowboys opt to move on from Schultz, and perhaps even $52 million reasons. Pro Football Focus projects Schultz will receive a four-year, $52 million contract in free agency, with $30 million guaranteed. The Cowboys are already projected to be $22 million over the cap in 2022, and that number is without Schultz’s salary, per Over the Cap. By comparison, Howard is projected to garner a much more team friendly one-year, $4.13 million contract, per PFF.
Schultz posted career high numbers in every major statistical category last season. The Cowboys tight end notched 78 receptions for 808 yards and eight touchdowns while playing in all 17 games in 2021. The Cowboys could opt to franchise tag Schultz, but that still would take up significant cap space at an estimated $11 million, per Sports Illustrated’s Mike Fisher.
ALL the latest Dallas Cowboys news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Cowboys newsletter here!
Howard Was the No. 19 Pick in the 2017 NFL Draft
Howard was a highly-touted prospect coming out of Alabama, and the Buccaneers selected the playmaker with the No. 19 pick in the 2017 NFL draft as the first tight end to go off the board. Heading into the NFL, Howard received Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s seal of approval as the legend predicted the tight end would “shine” at the next level.
“Well, O.J.’s a very athletic guy, he’s a great receiver,” Saban told NFL Network during the week of the 2017 Senior Bowl. “I think he’s improved dramatically as a blocker in the last couple years at Alabama. …I think that he’s going to be one of those guys in the NFL that just really shines because of his ability.”
Brady on Howard: ‘Very Talented Player & He’s Got a Great Attitude’
The former Bama standout has had a complicated start to his NFL career. Howard has overcome significant injuries during his pro career but even when healthy, he has often found himself behind a number of talented Buccaneers tight ends, especially after Rob Gronkowski was signed in 2020. The tight end’s best statistical season came in 2018 when Howard posted 34 receptions for 565 yards and five touchdowns in just ten appearances.
Howard quickly became a favorite teammate of Tom Brady who worked with the young tight end during the offseasons. When Howard sustained a season-ending Achilles injury in 2020, Brady gushed about the tight end’s future.
“It’s a tough injury and it’s tough to lose a guy like that who everyone loves being around, because he’s a great teammate and he does everything that everyone asks him to do and he’s [a] very talented player and he’s got a great attitude,” Brady said of Howard during an October 6, 2020 press conference. “And he brings his best every day and he’s dependable, consistent. And to lose a guy like that is a big blow for all of us.
“So, we care about him and who he is as a person, as a man and I know he’ll overcome this. It’s just the kind of person he is. He’s an extremely hard worker, so he’ll rehab good and he’ll be back, and I think he’ll be better than ever, so. It’s a tough break for him and a tough break for our team to lose someone of that caliber, but we’re all supportive of him and what’s ahead of him, which I know he’ll overcome.”