Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz emerged as one of the best weapons on the team this past season, playing in a contract year on the franchise tag. Poised to become one of the top NFL free agents in 2023, Dallas will need to pay him a lot more to keep him.
The Cowboys kept Schultz off the open market in 2022, using the franchise tag on him worth $10.931 million fully guaranteed. Applying the tag for the second consecutive year would incur a 120% salary increase, providing Shultz with a one-year contract at $13.1 million that is fully guaranteed next season.
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Dallas is interested in retaining its 6-foot-5 tight end, especially given his connection with Dak Prescott. Schultz finished second on the team in targets (89) and receiving yards (577), playing in just 15 games. He also elevated his game in the playoffs, finishing with 122 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
- Dalton Schultz stats (2022): 57 receptions, 577 receiving yards, 10.1 ypc, 27 first downs, 80.4 QB rating when targeted
However, it could be a challenge to keep him on the roster. The $13 million guaranteed on the franchise tag would create a new barrier for a team that is already $7 million over the 2023 salary cap. It leaves the franchise with contract negotiations and that brings its own issues.
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According to Bob Sturm of The Athletic, Schultz is believed to be seeking “top-of-the-TE-market-range money” in a long-term deal. Given many around the league expect the salaries for the highest-paid tight ends to explode this offseason, Schultz could push for a deal with a $14 million average annual value.
It puts Dallas in a predicament. Tight ends making $14-pllus million per season are among the best in the NFL, either a Hall of Fame-caliber weapon like Travis Kelce or an outstanding blocker and receiver such as George Kittle.
Schultz is an above-average receiving threat as a tight end and his rapport with Prescott helps the offense. However, he isn’t a quality blocker and that doesn’t bode well with Mike McCarthy wanting to run the football more in 2023.
Already facing difficult decisions with Tony Pollard, Leighton Vander Esch and Donovan Wilson, the Cowboys might have to let Schultz walk. At that point, tight end and wide receiver become real needs for this offense.
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