As we approach the franchise tag deadline on March 8, the Dallas Cowboys have a crucial decision to make. With multiple key contributors that are impending free agents — including Schultz — which will they choose to tag, if any?
They also have a cap situation to worry about. The Cowboys are currently $22.154 million over the cap according to OTC. That means they’ll have to shed or rework some contracts before free agency opens.
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Randy Gregory ‘Is the Priority’
Dallas’ free-agent list is lengthy this offseason. Some of the players set to hit the open market are Schultz, edge rusher Randy Gregory, wide receiver Michael Gallup, guard Connor Williams, linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Keanu Neal, safeties Jayron Kearse and Damontae Kazee, and more.
Mike Fisher of Cowboys Sports Illustrated ranked them on February 19, putting Gregory No. 1 on the list. He explained: “The Cowboys have told CowboysSI.com that he is ‘the priority.’ (As opposed to Gallup being ‘a priority.’)”
Side note: Schultz only came in at No. 5 on Fisher’s list and the S.I. reporter admitted that “his payday is coming.” He even added: “For the Cowboys, it’s probably time for Jarwin to be the player Schultz has become.”
In an update on February 28, Fisher doubled down after Cowboys COO Stephen Jones stated that they “haven’t ruled that out,” when asked about the possibility of using the franchise tag on someone like Gregory, Gallup or Schultz. Fisher wrote:
Sources tell CowboysSI.com that Dallas is “all-in” on keeping Gregory. If so, the only way to “rule out” tagging him is to sign him to a long-term deal. Likely: The Cowboys tag him between now and March 8; his tag number will be about $20 million (though Dallas could use the $16 million transition tag, meaning the Cowboys can match any offer he gets and retain the player).
He wagered that Dallas would like to keep Schultz as well, but was steadfast in his belief that Gregory is first on the list. Sports news website uSTADIUM seconded this information.
They tweeted: “Cowboys COO Stephen Jones was asked if the team will use the franchise tag on one of their bigger UFA’s (Randy Gregory, Dalton Schultz, Michael Gallup) and he said: ‘We haven’t ruled that out.’ Source tells us they are more focused on retaining Gregory over Schultz/Gallup.”
On February 22, NFL reporter Doug Kyed agreed that Schultz may not be a tag candidate.
“Some notes on free agents now that the franchise tag window has opened: Cowboys and Rams are in a tough cap situation to tag TE Dalton Schultz and CB Darious Williams, respectively, this offseason. Schultz should have a robust market as the most well-balanced TE on the market,” he voiced.
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Competition for Schultz?
Even if he does hit the open market, there’s no guarantee the Jets sign Schultz, although they should be one of the top bidders.
Gang Green could see face some stiff competition to get the dual-threat tight end and two Florida franchises stand out as potential suitors. The Jacksonville Jaguars are currently second in cap space on OTC, and they find themselves in the exact same situation as the Jets.
New head coach Doug Pederson understands the value of a quality tight end, flaunting Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert in Philadelphia. Schultz could be one of his top targets in an effort to surround Trevor Lawrence with as much talent as possible.
The other depends on Mike Gesicki. If the Miami Dolphins decide to let Gesicki walk, they might be in the market for a replacement and who better than Schultz? The rival Fins are currently first in available cap space.
The Los Angeles Chargers are the team with the third-most funds, and they could make a push for Schultz as well. Most believe that LAC will focus on adding defensive help but they do need a long-term tight end after losing Hunter Henry in 2021.
In case you were wondering, the Jets are currently fifth in cap space.