The Dalton Shultz contract negotiation news train keeps chugging along this offseason as the fifth-year tight end returned for mandatory minicamp this week.
Schultz was a participant in voluntary OTAs over the past few weeks, but made some waves when he left the optional practices because of his displeasure stemming from contract talks.
Schultz signed the franchise tag earlier this offseason and is set to make $10.9 million.
Had Schultz not returned this week, he would’ve faced fines upwards of $95,000. This much money could be considered chump change for more elite players who have earned larger contracts. We even saw running back Le’Veon Bell miss out on $14.5 million because he opted to sit out in 2018 because he wasn’t happy with his contract.
Considering Schultz’s career earnings are about $4.9 million, it wasn’t a shock to see him back this week.
Head coach Mike McCarthy isn’t holding Schultz’s absence at the end of OTAs against him. McCarthy said he realizes it’s just business and is happy to have him back this week.
Contract talks back on track between Schultz and the Cowboys
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that while a deal isn’t imminent, talks have ‘picked up’ between each side. If Dallas and Schultz can’t agree on a new contract by July 15, Schultz will be forced to play under the franchise tag in 2022.
So the debate ensues: should Dallas sign Schultz for the long-term or to re-evaluate after this season?
The fear is that if a long-term deal can’t be reached before the season kicks off, Schultz will open himself to the free agency market and go to the highest bidder after 2022. Here’s the argument for both sides:
Why Dallas needs to lock-up Schultz
The Cowboys have about $20 million in cap space, the sixth-most in the NFL. This is including the $10.9 million Dallas will owe Schultz if he plays on the franchise tag.
The tight end market was recently reset after the Cleveland Browns signed David Njoku to a four-year, $56.75 million contract. Statistically, Schultz has been much better than Njoku over the past two seasons.
Schultz is also in some elite company as far as tight ends go. Among tight ends, he’s ranked top 10 in catches, yards and touchdowns the past two seasons. The only other tight ends that can say the same are Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce and Darren Waller.
Considering Schultz’s standing among the best tight ends in the NFL and the wiggle room owner and general manager Jerry Jones has to play as far as cap space goes, the Cowboys could sign Schultz this offseason before the cap goes up and the tight end market gets even higher.
Dallas can gamble on Jake Ferguson
Ferguson, a Cowboys rookie drafted in the fourth round, was known more as a pass catcher than a blocker during his time as a Wisconsin Badger. He amassed 1,618 receiving yards, 145 receptions and 13 touchdowns in four college seasons.
Those numbers don’t exactly pop, but Wisconsin football is notorious for having a run-first offensive philosophy. Ferguson’s numbers could grow in a more receiver-friendly offense like the Cowboys’.
If Schultz plays 2022 on the franchise tag and Ferguson has a solid rookie campaign, the Cowboys could let Schultz walk in free agency. This could save them money to address other areas of need heading into 2023.