Rookie tight end Jake Ferguson had his best game of the season in Sunday night’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Is it possible the Dallas Cowboys let Dalton Schultz walk in free agency at season’s end to make Ferguson TE1?
Schultz injured his knee in the Cowboys Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The injury has continued nagging the fifth-year tight end, forcing him to sit for two of Dallas’ six games.
For Schultz, the injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. This is a contract year for the former Stanford Cardinal. Meaning he’s trying to prove his worth on the field so he can secure a big contract in the offseason.
In Schultz’s absence, Ferguson and fellow rookie tight end Peyton Hendershot have played well. So let’s break things down and see how realistic it is for the Cowboys to let Schultz go once the season concludes:
Cowboys have avoided paying Schultz
One of the biggest storylines from the offseason was the contract negotiations between the Cowboys and Schultz. Despite signing the Cowboys franchise tag, Schultz was still looking to receive an extension.
There were reports of mutual interest between both parties to lock up a long-term deal. When Schultz started sensing a deal wasn’t getting done, he opted to leave the Cowboys’ voluntary OTAs.
This wasn’t a violation of team rules because as the name suggests, that portion of Dallas’ offseason workouts weren’t mandatory for Schultz. But he did so to voice his displeasure with how contract negotiations were going.
Schultz would later return to minicamp and has been with the team since. Ultimately, an extension was never given to Schultz.
Can Ferguson and Hendershot fill Schultz’s shoes?
Part of the reason Dallas avoided awarding Schultz with a new deal could’ve been because Jerry Jones and Co. wanted to see how Ferguson and Hendershot would perform.
Here’s how all three tight ends have played this season. Keep in mind, Schultz has only played in four games while Ferguson and Hendershot have been available for all six games.
- Dalton Schultz: nine catches for 80 yards
- Peyton Hendershot: five catches for 65 yards
- Jake Ferguson: seven catches for 60 yards and one touchdown
None of the players have posted eye-popping numbers through six weeks. The only pass catchers who have excelled this season are CeeDee Lamb and Noah Brown. The duo have combined for 698 yards and three touchdowns. The rest of the team has combined for only 456 yards and two touchdowns.
The biggest reason for these less-than-impressive stats has been the absence of Dak Prescott. But QB1 is expected to return this week against the Detroit Lions.
It’s hard to evaluate the play of the tight ends with Cooper Rush at QB. Once Prescott returns, we’ll get a much better idea of whether the offense could survive with Ferguson and Hendershot taking over tight end duties in place of Schultz for next season.
Ferguson had this nice play on Sunday night against the Eagles:
Immediately after, Cowboys fans took to social media to voice their desire for Ferguson to take the TE1 job next season. But fans should pump the breaks on that narrative until we see how the tight ends perform once Prescott returns.