Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz is coming off a career year as he tests free agency for the first time. A high-volume receiver at the tight end position, Schultz has a ton of value in the passing game and could be a prime target in 2022 free agency, especially with a lackluster draft class on the horizon. Based on his stats for the Cowboys these past couple of seasons, what type of contract could we expect Schultz to receive in 2022?
Update (3/8/22): The Dallas Cowboys have elected to use the franchise tag on Dalton Schultz in 2022 at a cost of $10.9 million.
Dalton Schultz: Free Agency Overview
Schultz could benefit from the recent onslaught of big-money contract extensions at the tight end spot over the past two seasons. During that period, Schultz has been among the most productive players at his position, despite being featured in an offense that has several notable playmakers.
Recapping Schultz’s 2021 season
Schultz had a breakout year in 2020, collecting 63 catches for 615 yards and 4 touchdowns. He followed up that impressive campaign by blowing those numbers out of the water in 2021.
With an additional game on the schedule, Schultz caught 78 passes for 808 yards and 8 touchdowns. He was targeted a staggering 104 times. To put that into perspective, Schultz was targeted just 19 times in his first two seasons. He also stood out as a blocker last season.
Over the past two seasons, Schultz has outperformed Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert in games played, catches, yards, and touchdowns. Goedert signed a four-year, $57 million contract extension in November.
Contract estimate and salary cap implications
Schultz has made $4.9 million since the Cowboys took him in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He collected just $2.2 million during the final year of his rookie deal. In 2022, he’s likely to see his earnings explode.
Spotrac lists Schultz’s market value at $12.6 million per season, which would put him into the top five of all NFL tight ends.
The Cowboys are going to have a tough time retaining Schultz. Over The Cap as of Feb. 27 projected Dallas to have the third-worst cap situation in the league at $22.2 million over the threshold.
If Schultz hits the open market, as expected, he should create a bidding war that is likely based around Goedert’s midseason extension.
Possible landing spots for Schultz
The Jacksonville Jaguars have the worst tight end situation in the league. New head coach Doug Pederson places a heavy emphasis on tight end play. In Philadelphia, he featured Goedert and Zach Ertz regularly in the offense.
Ertz set the single-season catch record for the position under Pederson in 2018. Schultz could be the ideal target to duplicate that success in Jacksonville. The Jaguars do have the epic amount of cap space to potentially convince him to come to Duval County. Second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence would also benefit greatly from Schultz’s presence.
Along with the Jaguars, the Los Angeles Chargers and New York Jets have the need and cap space to contend for Schultz’s services. Schultz, a Stanford alum, could look to return to California and catch passes from third-year star quarterback Justin Herbert in 2022.
What they’re saying
“He’s productive, and he’s a good point-of-attack blocker. He’s got really good hands, he’s just really solid and steady. The real question is: Is he a product of being surrounded by really talented players around him? That’s what teams are going to have to try to figure out. He’s a very good player and tight ends are hard to come by, so I would he’s going to get a very nice contract.” — Longtime NFL scout to Pro Football Network on Schultz’s free-agent outlook.