The Dallas Cowboys may have ended the season on a sour note, but the chances to improve are already appearing, including the potential to add a Las Vegas Raiders star.
Dallas was able to notch its first playoff win under current head coach Mike McCarthy, but crashed out of the Divisional Round after a poor offensive display in a 19-12 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Injecting new life in the offense means adding new weapons, and apparently, Raiders veteran TE Darren Waller could be available as a potential replacement for Dalton Schultz, should the TE part ways with the Cowboys. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that teams will be expecting the 30-year-old to be on the trade block this offseason.
“I’ve talked to a few people around the league who expect head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler to continue aggressively tweaking the roster,” Fowler wrote. “McDaniels is big on ‘culture fits’ and will want his own guys. Teams will be keeping an eye on tight end Darren Waller and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow in that process.”
Dallas could do far worse than adding Waller as a potential replacement for Schultz, who played on the franchise tag in 2022.
Waller Looking to Find 2020 Production
Entering the NFL in 2015, Waller didn’t have much hype. The Baltimore Ravens drafted the former Georgia Tech tight end in the sixth round of that year’s draft. Interestingly enough, his first two seasons with Baltimore didn’t signify a long, successful NFL career either.
According to PFR, Waller had just 103 receiving yards in 18 games. He also violated the league’s substance-abuse policy twice, leading to Waller being suspended for the entirety of the 2017 season.
A change of pace with the Raiders turned things around, but not until he had a season to get adjusted in 2018. But over the next two seasons, Waller was one of the best TEs in the league.
The 30-year-old posted back-to-back seasons with over 1100 receiving yards and in 2020, he eclipsed the 100-reception mark for the first time while also scoring nine touchdowns.
2021 and 2022 were okay seasons, but both were marred by injury issues. Waller played 20 games over that span and totaled 1053 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Raiders TE vs. Cowboys TE
Moving for Waller only makes sense if Dallas plans on letting Schultz walk, which is a real possibility. The 26-year-old was paid $10.93 million for playing on the franchise tag, which was an expensive price for his production.
Schultz had higher volume numbers than Waller (due to playing six more games than the Raiders TE,) but the Las Vegas star’s averages were still better. Waller averaged 13.9 yards per catch and 43.1 yards per game, while Schultz averaged 10.1 yards per catch and 38.5 yards per game.
However, Waller would not be a cheap option. According to Spotrac, the Raiders tight end will count as a $12 million cap hit in 2023, while tagging Schultz again would cost $11.36 million according to Over the Cap.
A big benefit of Waller’s current deal though is the lack of guaranteed money. After the 2023 season, there will only be $990,000 in guaranteed money remaining.
Either player is going to cost the Cowboys, and with Dallas’ $1.84 million in cap space, either option will require roster configuration. But Waller’s best NFL performances are at least a couple notches above Schultz’s best since he entered the league with the Cowboys.
It’s time to replace Schultz. Dallas can’t afford to overpay for mediocre play at the tight end position, and Waller has at least shown the ability to return good value on a high salary. Unfortunately for Schultz, that did not happen in 2022.