NFL free agency is right around the corner. While some players will work out extensions with their current teams, most of them will become unrestricted free agents and hit the open market. One of the most prominent offensive free agents is Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz. What are some possible landing spots for Schultz?
Dalton Schultz Free Agency Predictions
Every year, the free agent class has its strengths and weaknesses. The 2023 class is very weak at wide receiver but absolutely loaded at running back. There are also a couple of quality tight ends set to hit the open market.
Schultz is due for a pay raise after playing the 2022 season on the franchise tag. Will the Cowboys tag him again? Or might Schultz be playing elsewhere in 2023 and beyond?
The Cowboys Could Finally Give Dalton Schultz an Extension … or Franchise Tag Him Again
The Cowboys aren’t in the best situation financially, but general managers always find ways to make things work. The Cowboys are about $7 million over the cap, but they can create plenty of cap space by shifting money around. Most notably, they are almost certainly going to restructure Ezekiel Elliott’s contract, which should significantly reduce his absurd $16.7 million cap hit.
The added space could enable the Cowboys to offer Schultz the multi-year extension they couldn’t agree to last season.
MORE: 2023 NFL Free Agency Predictions
It is worth noting that the Cowboys spent a fourth-round pick on Jake Ferguson last year. At the very least, they’re preparing for the possibility they are unable to retain Schultz. The Athletic’s Bob Sturm said Schultz is believed to be seeking “top-of-the-TE-market-range money.”
There’s also the possibility they hit Schultz with the franchise tag again. Unfortunately, they also may need that tag for Tony Pollard. The Cowboys have some decisions to make, but Jerry Jones finding a way to keep both Pollard and Schultz, while far from a certainty, remains most likely.
The Texans Have Money To Spend and a Dearth of Impact Players
One of the teams with the most salary cap space available is the Texans. With about $37 million of space, they can absolutely afford a guy like Schultz.
The Texans are fully engulfed in a rebuild and about to embark on the next era of their organization with a rookie quarterback. With the quarterback a foregone conclusion, the next step is surrounding him with talent.
The Texans haven’t had a quality tight end since Owen Daniels a decade ago. Signing Schultz would solve their tight end problem for the duration of his contract. It would give their rookie QB a reliable veteran and safety valve in the passing game. They could then focus on adding an impact wide receiver via the draft, setting their team up to contend by 2024 or 2025.
Schultz Could Be the Final Piece of the Lions’ Offensive Puzzle
The Lions narrowly fell short of making the playoffs last season. But don’t blame the offense. The Lions were the fifth-highest-scoring offense in 2022, averaging 26.6 points per game.
Jared Goff had a bevy of weapons at his disposal, from Amon-Ra St. Brown to D.J. Chark to D’Andre Swift. For a little while, he had T.J. Hockenson. After the Lions traded him to the Vikings, that created a hole at the position. Schultz can fill that hole.
The 2023 Lions’ offense is looking like it will center around St. Brown, Jameson Williams, and Swift. There’s room for one more piece.
With that said, GM Brad Holmes is not one to just throw money around. “We’re always going to be very strategic and selective with our approach. … Regardless of how many resources you have, how much money you can spend, we’re always very selective and strategic with how we go about free agency. And that’s upcoming UFAs that are on our team as well as external adds, but it’s always going to be the same approach.”
The Lions lack a tight end of consequence and have about $16 million cap space. If they can secure their tight end position with Schultz, they can devote the rest of their efforts to improving their defense, setting themselves up for a playoff run in 2023.
Dalton Schultz’s Market Value, Career Stats, and More
Schultz currently sits at No. 21 in our top 100 free agents. He is the top-ranked pass catcher, ahead of every wide receiver.
Last season, Schultz cost the Cowboys a hair under $11 million against the salary cap, playing out the season on the franchise tag. If Schultz does end up with a multi-year contract, he will likely make more than the projected franchise tag for tight ends.
Schultz will be 27 years old this season. He’s been more productive over his first five seasons than David Njoku, who got a four-year, $54.7 million extension.
MORE: Highest-Paid Tight Ends in the NFL
Unfortunately for NFL teams, when guys like Jonnu Smith and Dawson Knox get four years and $50-52 million, that means Schultz is going to be pretty expensive. Schultz is better than both of them and should be able to get $12-14 million a year.
In Schultz’s best season (2018), he caught 78 of 104 targets for 808 yards and eight touchdowns. Depending on where he ends up, Schultz is very much capable of matching — or perhaps exceeding — those numbers in 2023.
Dalton Schultz Career Stats
- Targets: 301
- Receptions: 211
- Receiving Yards: 2,122
- Touchdowns: 17