Cowboys Could Target Ex-Pro Bowl Tight End, Says Analyst

Mike McCarthy

Getty The Cowboys could target free agent Eric Ebron as an insurance policy amid Dalton Schultz's contract situation.

The Dallas Cowboys could look for an insurance policy amid Dalton Schultz’s current contract situation.

With Schultz currently sitting out offseason activities over frustration over his current contract situation, the Cowboys could look for another veteran option via the free agency route. According to Jess Haynie of Inside the Star, the Cowboys could consider veteran Eric Ebron.

Ebron is a former first-round pick of the 2014 NFL draft who clinched a Pro Bowl berth in 2018 as a member of the Indianapolis Colts. The veteran tight end more recently spent time with the Pittsburgh Steelers over the past two seasons after playing his first four years with the Detroit Lions.

“Usually, offering someone the security of a long-term deal comes with the benefit of reducing your annual expense,” says Haynie. “But if Schultz isn’t offering that, the Cowboys must be starting to wonder how hard badly they want to keep him.

This is where a guy like Eric Ebron starts to creep into my mind. The 29-year-old veteran is still a free agent after a down year in Pittsburgh. It also doesn’t help that a knee injury cut his season short at just eight games.”

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Ebron Has Had Up-and-Down Career

Ebron hasn’t exactly lighted up the stat sheet in recent years. The veteran tight end was supplanted as the starter in Pittsburgh last season by rookie Pat Freiermuth after injuries and a lack of production led to his demotion.

In eight games and three starts last season, Ebron posted just 12 receptions for 84 yards and one touchdown. However, if you go back to just one season prior with Ebron as the unquestioned starting tight end, his numbers look more respectable. Ebron posted 56 receptions for 558 yards and five touchdowns during the 2020 season.

That’s not even mentioning Ebron’s ceiling as a tight end. The former first-round pick posted 66 receptions for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns during his Pro Bowl campaign in 2018. He also posted 60-plus receptions and 700-plus yards just two years prior in 2016.

Why Cowboys Should Consider Ebron

While Ebron isn’t going to replicate Schultz’s production any time soon — the 25-year-old Schultz posted 78 receptions for 808 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021 — he represents a nice safety blanket if Schultz’s holdout continues.

The Cowboys simply lack proven depth at tight end beyond Schultz. Following the release of former starter Blake Jarwin at the beginning of the offseason, rookie fourth-round pick Jake Ferguson and second-year tight end Sean McKeon are the top options. McKeon has just four career receptions for 27 yards and one touchdown to his name.

There’s little doubt that quarterback Dak Prescott has always greatly relied on his tight ends in the passing game. As Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News notes, Schultz caught 17.5% of Prescott’s passes in 2021. During the early part of Prescott’s career in 2016-17, Jason Witten caught 21.3% of Prescott’s passes.

With Dallas facing a less-than-ideal situation at receiver with CeeDee Lamb, James Washington and rookie Jalen Tolbert as the top receivers — Michael Gallup is still recovering from an ACL injury — the tight end position will be even more important for Prescott heading into the 2022 season.

While the Cowboys may not feel Schultz is worth the $14-to-$15 million per year that the league’s best tight ends are being paid, Dallas values the tight end position just as much as any other team in the league. Signing an insurance policy like Ebron can give the Cowboys leverage — and a backup plan — in case the Schultz situation turns ugly.

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