Dalton Schultz

Cowboys Notes: Schultz, Barr, Draft

The Cowboys have made a number of moves so far this offseason, including the trade acquisition of wideout Brandin Cooks. While that gave the team a new, accomplished pass-catcher, the departure of tight end Dalton Schultz has created a vacancy at that position.

Conflicting reports have emerged on whether or not the Cowboys attempted to retain the 26-year-old, who played on the franchise tag in 2022. Confirming his earlier offering that Schultz turned down a multi-year offer from Dallas, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer notes that Schultz declined a three-year, $36MM deal. That far outpaces the one-year, $9MM pact he signed last week to join a Texans team facing far more uncertainty at the quarterback position than the situation he departed.

Schultz established himself as a highly dependable target for Dak Prescott during their time together in Dallas. The former recorded exactly 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns over the past three seasons, production which he will look to replicate with the Texans and their new-look offense in 2023. A standout campaign would go a long way to earning him a new free agent deal similar to the one he chose not to take from the Cowboys.

Here are some other notes out of Dallas:

  • The Cowboys have retained a number of in-house free agents on defense this year, but the team’s linebacking corps will still look different in 2023. ESPN’s Todd Archer notes that veteran Anthony Barr will not be back in Dallas next year. The 31-year-old joined the Cowboys last season after eight years with the Vikings; he saw a notable role with 10 starts and a 63% snap share. After making 58 tackles and putting up underwhelming numbers in coverage, though, he will be headed elsewhere this year. Dallas has the recently-retained Leighton Vander Esch, along with the likes of Damone Clark, Jabril Cox and Devin Harper in their middle linebacker room, one which only sparingly includes dynamic edge rusher Micah Parsons.
  • With Schultz no longer in the fold, tight end is a position of need for the Cowboys heading into the draft. This year’s class is said to be extremely deep, and Jon Machota of The Athletic writes that Dallas is “intrigued” by it (subscription required). The door is open to the Cowboys using their first-round pick (No. 26) on a tight end, which would put them in play to add a prospect like Michael MayerLuke Musgrave, Darnell Washington or Dalton Kincaid.
  • Isaac Alarcon has spent the past three seasons on Dallas’ practice squad as an offensive lineman after joining the team through the International Player Pathway program. He will be making a position switch to defensive line this offseason, however (Twitter link via Archer). The 24-year-old will look to find a 53-man roster spot along the d-line as a depth option.

Texans, TE Dalton Schultz Agree To Deal

The top available tight end in this year’s free agent class has found his new home. Dalton Schultz is signing a one-year, $9MM deal with the Texans, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Schultz had a modest start to his career in Dallas, but in 2020 he emerged as one of quarterback Dak Prescott‘s top targets. He racked up 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns between 2020-21, making himself one of the Cowboys’ most productive offensive players.

Negotiations for a long-term deal fell through last offseason, so Schultz played on the franchise tag in 2022. His production took a step back this past season, one in which Prescott missed considerable time early in the year. Schultz still made 57 catches for 577 yards and five touchdowns, making him the top option in this year’s free agent class. His numbers also made it likely that he would depart the Cowboys this offseason, in spite of a reported multi-year contract offer from the team.

On that point, Pelissero’s colleague Jane Slater recently noted that Dallas had not, in fact, submitted an offer to the 26-year-old (Twitter link). Now, he will make an intra-state move to the Texans, a team which has been amongst the busiest this offseason. Schultz will aim to rebound from a production standpoint working with what will all-but assuredly be a rookie quarterback in 2023.

Houston has added a number of players on offense via free agency and trades, including receivers Robert Woods and Noah Brown. Schultz will join the latter in making a Cowboys-to-Texans move in the hopes of giving the rebuilding AFC South outfit a notable boost in the passing game. Houston’s skill-position corps is bound to look considerably different next season, as they aim to take a sizeable step forward as a unit.

The Cowboys – who yesterday acquired receiver Brandin Cooks in a trade with the Texans further connecting the two franchises – now have a vacancy to fill at the tight end spot. While this year’s draft class boasts a number of celebrated prospects, finding a seam-stretcher with the personal connection to Prescott in line with the one Schultz possessed will likely be a tall order.

2023 Top 50 NFL Free Agents

Super Bowl LVII provided the latest example of the value free agency can bring. The Chiefs revamped their receiving corps on last year’s market, while the Eagles acquired three defensive starters — including sack leader Haason Reddick. The Jaguars also used a March 2022 splurge to ignite their surprising surge to the divisional round.

Beginning with the legal tampering period, which starts at 3pm CT on Monday, and continuing with the official start to free agency (3pm Wednesday), the next several days represent a highlight on the NFL calendar. Which teams will change their 2023 outlooks for the better next week?

While the 2023 free agent class has absorbed its share of body blows and indeed lacks depth at certain spots, a few positions will bring waves of starter-level talent. Right tackle will invite some big-money decisions, and the safety and off-ball linebacker positions feature considerable depth. A few ascending talents and hidden gems appear in this class as well.

This list ranks free agents by earning potential. In terms of accomplishments, Bobby Wagner, Fletcher Cox and Lavonte David would lap most of the players included here. With each defender going into his age-33 season, however, the standouts’ ability to command big contracts is certainly not what it once was.

In terms of possible destinations, not every team is represented equally. Some teams will bring more needs and cap space into this year’s marketplace than others. With some help from Adam La Rose, here is this year’s PFR top 50 free agents list, along with potential landing spots for each player.

1. Orlando Brown Jr., T. Age in Week 1: 27

As the 49ers did two years ago with Trent Williams, the Chiefs will let Brown hit the market. This could end up benefiting the veteran tackle, who was offered a deal with an average annual value north of Williams’ tackle-record $23MM per year before last July’s franchise tag deadline. Citing insufficient guarantees, Brown turned it down. Kansas City’s offer did contain a bloated final year to bump up the AAV to $23.1MM, but will Brown – a quality left tackle but not a top-shelf option at the position – do as well this year? He will soon find out.

Brown has now made four Pro Bowls and carries positional versatility that would intrigue were he open to a return to right tackle, which by all accounts he is not. The 363-pound blocker can struggle against speed-rusher types, but he is set to be the rare accomplished left tackle in his prime to hit the market. The Chiefs sent a package including a first-round pick to the Ravens for Brown, whose bet on himself led to a $16.6MM tag and an open market. The bidding will run high, though it might not reach the places the Williams pursuit did in 2021.

The Chiefs’ exclusive negotiating rights with Brown end March 13; they have had nearly two years to complete a deal. The market will determine if the league views the sixth-year blocker as an elite-level left tackle or merely a good one. Then again, bidding wars drive up the prices for O-linemen on the market. O-line salary records have fallen four times (Williams, Corey Linsley, Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff) in free agency since 2021. This foray could give Brown the guaranteed money he seeks, and it puts the Chiefs at risk of seeing their two-year left tackle depart. The Ravens also passed on this payment back in 2021, in part because they already had Ronnie Stanley on the payroll.

The defending champions have Brown and right tackle Andrew Wylie eligible for free agency; some of their leftover funds from the Tyreek Hill trade went to Brown’s tag. Although some among the Chiefs were frustrated Brown passed on last year’s offer, the team will be hurting at a premium position if he walks. Given the importance the blindside position carries, fewer teams are in need compared to right tackle. The Titans losing Taylor Lewan and continuing to clear cap space could point to a run at Brown, though the team has a few needs up front. The Jets likely have needs at both tackle spots. Would the Bears relocate Braxton Jones to the right side? Ryan Poles was with the Chiefs when they traded for Brown, and the Bears could outmuscle anyone for cap space.

Best fits: Titans, Chiefs, Commanders

2. Mike McGlinchey, T. Age in Week 1: 28

Teams in need of right tackles will participate in one of the more interesting markets in recent memory. Above-average-to-good offensive linemen do well in free agency annually, and this year will send three experienced right tackles in their prime to the market. A five-year starter in San Francisco and former top-10 pick, McGlinchey has a good case as the best of this lot. The five-year vet’s run-blocking craft eclipses his pass-protection chops exiting Year 5, but he will walk into a competitive market. The former Notre Dame left tackle should have a lucrative deal in place during next week’s legal tampering period.

Although mutual interest existed regarding a second 49ers-McGlinchey agreement, John Lynch acknowledged the only viable path for McGlinchey to stay in San Francisco would be his market underwhelming. That seems unlikely, so right tackle-seeking teams – and there are a handful – will jockey for the sixth-year veteran. McGlinchey turned 28 in January, making this his obvious window to cash in. He rated fifth in ESPN’s run block win rate stat last season, bouncing back from the quadriceps injury that ended his 2021 season.

There is no shortage of Kyle Shanahan– or Sean McVay-influenced schemes around the league. The Bears employ Luke Getsy as their play-caller; Getsy worked for Shanahan/McVay tree branch Matt LaFleur, and the Bears’ cap space dwarfs every other team’s. After fielding a shaky O-line (on a team full of substandard position groups), Chicago needs a better idea of Justin Fields’ trajectory. Outbidding the field for the top right tackle available is a good start. The Patriots want a right tackle – on a line without a big contract presently – and the Raiders might have a say here as well. In need at multiple O-line spots, Las Vegas will have cash as well if it passes on a big QB investment.

Best fits: Bears, Patriots, Raiders

3. Jawann Taylor, T. Age in Week 1: 26

As expected, the Jaguars took Evan Engram off the market via the franchise tag. The tight end tag being $7MM cheaper than the $18.2MM offensive lineman tag always pointed Taylor toward free agency, and after never missing a start in four Duval County seasons, Taylor will be tough for the Jags to retain. They already drafted Walker Little in the 2021 second round, and no team that is currently paying a left tackle top-10 money (Cam Robinson is seventh) has a top-10 right tackle contract on the books. Taylor is expected to land at least a top-10 right tackle deal, with a $17MM-AAV figure being floated. That would place the former Florida Gator in the top five at the position, depending on how McGlinchey fares next week.

Taylor resembles the genre of player that usually populates the top of a position’s free agency market: a dependable performer who checks in below the top tier at his job. Taylor enjoyed his strongest year in his platform campaign. The former second-round pick dropped his hold count from 11 in 2021 to two in 2022. While PFF charged Taylor with five sacks allowed, Football Outsiders measured his blown-block rate at a career-low 1.3%. Offering a disparate skillset compared to McGlinchey, Taylor has fared better as a pass protector than in the run game. PFF slotted him as a top-10 pass protector among right tackles but viewed him as a dismal run-blocker.

The Jags have presumably made Taylor an offer, but other teams will probably top it. The Dolphins gave Terron Armstead a five-year, $75MM deal in 2022 but have needed a right tackle ever since Ja’Wuan James’ 2019 exit. They were forced to start in-season pickup Brandon Shell for much of the year and have cleared more than $45MM in cap space over the past two days. The team just picked up Tua Tagovailoa‘s fifth-year option, and the league’s lone southpaw starting QB needs better blindside protection after a season in which he suffered at least two concussions. Overspending on O-linemen is not the Patriots’ M.O., but they have a need at right tackle and do not have big dollars devoted to quarterback or any position up front. New England is on the hunt for a right tackle upgrade, and the team’s 2021 free agency showed it would spend when it deemed expenditures necessary.

Best fits: Dolphins, Patriots, Jaguars

4. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB. Age in Week 1: 31

The quarterback market cleared up this week, seeing Geno Smith and Daniel Jones extended and Derek Carr’s lengthy street free agency stretch end with $70MM in practical guarantees. Garoppolo’s injury history will affect his value, but teams kind of make it a priority to staff this position. The former Super Bowl starter is in his prime and on the market for the first time. How high this market goes will depend on what the Raiders want and what Aaron Rodgers decides.

The 49ers’ 12-game win streak that included Brock Purdy’s stunning displays began with Garoppolo at the controls. Guiding San Francisco to four straight wins, Garoppolo was at or close to his best when he suffered a broken foot in Week 13. He sported a 7-0 TD-INT ratio during that win streak and closed the season 16th in QBR. He would have walked into a better market had the injury not occurred; the setback came after a string of health issues. He tore an ACL in 2018, missed 10 games in 2020 after an ankle sprain and was significantly limited by the end of the 2021 slate due to a three-injury season. Garoppolo’s March 2022 shoulder surgery hijacked his trade market.

Ideally for Garoppolo, Rodgers returns to Green Bay or retires. While that is looking unlikelier by the day, it would put the Jets in a desperate position following Carr’s decision. The Raiders represent the other wild card. Garoppolo would slide into Josh McDaniels’ system seamlessly, given the parties’ three-plus years together in New England. The Raiders have operated a bit more stealthily compared to the Jets; they have been connected to Rodgers, Garoppolo and rolling with a rookie. Plan C here would be a tough sell given the presences of 30-year-old skill-position players Davante Adams and Darren Waller, but Las Vegas’ plans cloud Garoppolo’s market. If the Raiders pass and Rodgers chooses the Jets, Garoppolo’s earning power could drop.

McDaniels not fancying a Garoppolo reunion opens the door for the Texans, who hired ex-49ers pass-game coordinator Bobby Slowik as OC, and others. Houston’s situation may not appeal to Garoppolo, but Slowik and Nick Caserio being in Houston make this connection too clear to ignore. The Buccaneers and Commanders are in win-now positions but are giving indications they do not want to spend much at QB. The Commanders were deep in talks for the then-49ers QB last year, however. Garoppolo will test those squads, along with the Falcons, who are entering Year 3 of the Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime. The Panthers’ acquisition of the No. 1 pick likely takes them out of the running, and Carolina not being in the mix could also affect how high the Garoppolo price goes.

Bottom line, there should be enough teams interested in staffing their 2023 QB1 spots that the best free agent option should do OK no matter what happens with Rodgers.

Best fits: Raiders, Texans, Commanders

5. Jamel Dean, CB. Age in Week 1: 26

The Buccaneers retained Carlton Davis last year, but their dire cap situation should force a Dean departure. Dean’s age/performance combination should make him this year’s top cornerback available. With corner a position of need for many teams, the former third-round pick stands to do very well. Dean has only been a full-time starter in one season, however, seeing his defensive snap share jump from 67% in 2021 to 90% last season.

Excelling in press coverage, Dean played a major role for the 2020 Super Bowl champion Bucs iteration and overtook fellow free agent Sean Murphy-Bunting last year. Dean did perform better in 2021 compared to 2022, allowing no touchdowns and limiting QBs to a collective 50.0 passer rating; those numbers shot up to four and 86.0 last season. Still, PFF rated Dean as last year’s 10th-best corner. J.C. Jackson did not break into the top five among corners upon hitting the market last year; Dean should not be expected to do so, either. But many teams will be interested.

The Patriots have paid up for a corner previously, in Stephon Gilmore (2017), but Jonathan Jones – forced to primarily play a boundary role in 2022 – wants to re-sign and will be far cheaper than Dean. The Falcons need help opposite AJ Terrell and trail only the Bears in cap space. Although a Terrell payment is coming, it can be tabled to 2024 due to the fifth-year option. The Dolphins are clearing cap space and now have a corner need, with Byron Jones no longer with the team after his missed season.

Best fits: Dolphins, Falcons, Patriots

6. Jessie Bates, S. Age in Week 1: 26

Bates stands to be one of this free agency crop’s safest bets, combining extensive experience – the final two years as a pillar for a championship threat – with a host of prime years remaining. Beginning his career at 21, the Wake Forest product has started 79 games and anchored the Bengals’ secondary for most of his tenure. The Bengals did not tag Bates for a second time, passing on a $15.5MM price. With the team planning to let Bates test the market, it looks like the sixth-year defender will leave Cincinnati.

The Bengals and Bates went through two offseasons of negotiations, ending in the 2022 tag. The Bengals have some big payments to make at higher-profile positions. Safety does not qualify as such, but Bates has been a cornerstone in Lou Anarumo’s defense and will be handsomely rewarded. Bates finished as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 overall safety in 2020 and, after a shakier 2021 in which he admitted his contract situation affected his play, Bates came through with impact plays in the postseason. He graded as a top-25 safety, via PFF, in 2022.

Safety is one of this year’s deeper positions in free agency. Of the top 10 safety contracts, however, only one went to a free agent (Marcus Williams in 2022). Bates should be expected to join the Ravens defender, who signed for $14MM per year. It will be interesting if he can climb into the top five at the position; Justin Simmons’ $15.25MM-AAV accord sits fifth. Bates should be expected to approach or eclipse that, though moving to the Derwin JamesMinkah Fitzpatrick tier will be more difficult. Still, after the Bengals offered Bates less than $17MM guaranteed last summer, he should depart for more guaranteed money.

The Browns are interested in Bates, who will cost more than John Johnson cost Cleveland two years ago (three years, $33.75MM). Clear of the record-setting Matt Ryan dead-money hit, the Falcons have cash to spend and a Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime entering Year 3. The Falcons need to make progress, and they do not have much in the way of talent or costs at safety. The team has not featured much here since the Keanu NealRicardo Allen tandem splintered. Bates would be a way to remedy that.

Team fits: Falcons, Browns, Raiders

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NFC East Notes: Edwards, Giants, Cowboys

Off-ball linebacker is set to be one of this year’s deepest positional markets. The Eagles are set to send both their regulars — Kyzir White and T.J. Edwards — to free agency. Edwards is expected to draw interest, and an NFC East bidding war could commence. Edwards wants to stay with the Eagles, per InsidetheBirds.com’s Geoff Mosher, but the former UDFA is set to receive interest from three or four teams. One of the interested parties looks to be the Giants, whom the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy notes are believed to have the productive Eagle on their radar. The Giants, whose linebacker plan has not stabilized since Blake Martinez‘s ACL tear early during the 2021 season, have multiple needs at the position. There will be several ILB types available, however, even if Tremaine Edmunds‘ Bills ties do not lead him to a reunion with Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen.

As for the Eagles, they have most of their defense headed toward free agency. It will be interesting to see if Edwards, who has graded as a top-10 off-ball ‘backer (via Pro Football Focus) in each of the past two seasons, will be a priority as the Eagles attempt to reconstruct their defense. Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • Another of those off-ball linebackers set to be available, Leighton Vander Esch remains in the Cowboys‘ plans. The team has engaged in talks with the former first-round pick, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill notes the sides have not made much progress on a deal that would keep him off the market (Twitter link). Ditto Donovan Wilson, whom Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones said the team wants to bring back. Jones called keeping the Cowboys’ Wilson-Jayron KearseMalik Hooker safety trio together “a priority,” Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News tweets. Safety resides as a deep position on the market as well, and although Wilson is coming off his best season, it might not be too costly for the Cowboys to re-sign the former sixth-round pick. Vander Esch signed a one-year, $2MM deal with Dallas in 2022; he played 746 defensive snaps last season, his most since his Pro Bowl rookie year.
  • Staying in Dallas, the team is expecting to lose tight end starter Dalton Schultz in free agency. But the key Dak Prescott auxiliary target did field an offer from the team. Schultz turned down a “pretty solid” multiyear extension offer, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. With Evan Engram off the market, Schultz can be safely viewed as the top tight end available. It makes sense, after the Cowboys franchise-tagged Schultz last year, that he would want to explore what else is out there.
  • The Cardinals are handing the defensive play-calling keys to the NFL’s youngest active coordinator, the recently hired Nick Rallis. Prior to Jonathan Gannon taking the former Eagles linebackers coach to the desert, Zach Berman of The Athletic notes Philly had interest in the 29-year-old assistant for its defensive coordinator job (subscription required). Rallis spent the past two seasons with the Eagles.
  • Jerry Jones laments not drafting enough options at quarterback in the years since Troy Aikman‘s retirement (in 2001), and Gehlken notes the Cowboys should be monitored regarding the selection of a Prescott backup. Cooper Rush is a free agent, as is a quarterback the Cowboys drafted before he enjoyed a memorable stay with another team (the Jets’ Mike White). The Cowboys, who have only drafted eight QBs since Jones bought the team in 1989, have selected one QB (current XFLer Ben DiNucci, in the 2020 seventh round) since Mike McCarthy‘s arrival.

Cowboys Aim To Add Another Weapon; Team Eyeing Extensions For CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs

The Cowboys have Michael Gallup entering the second year of his five-year extension, and the team’s No. 2 wide receiver is now more than a year removed from his ACL tear. The team is also expected to use the franchise tag to keep Tony Pollard off the market. But it is eyeing an addition to its skill-position corps as well.

Dallas will pursue a “dynamic weapon” this offseason, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News notes. This will naturally reconnect the Cowboys to Odell Beckham Jr., but Gehlken cautions nothing is imminent there. The addition could also come in the draft.

It also might come at tight end, as Dalton Schultz is likely to leave in free agency. Headlined by Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer and Utah’s Dalton Kincaid, this tight class is viewed as the best in many years. Both those options could well be gone by the time the Cowboys’ No. 26 overall pick arrives. This draft’s receiver class is not viewed as highly, at least compared to the past few, and Stephen Jones‘ comments of the team readying to use the franchise tag almost certainly point to Pollard being the recipient. It would cost just $10.1MM for the Cowboys to keep Pollard. It would be the sixth straight year in which Dallas has used the tag.

As far as veteran receivers go, Beckham headlines a free agency crop not viewed glowingly. It would be interesting to see the Cowboys pay Gallup, tag Pollard and spend on another wide receiver. The team also has designs on extending CeeDee Lamb, with Jones indicating (via the Dallas Morning News’ Calvin Watkins) both he and Trevon Diggs are in the team’s long-term plans.

Lamb’s fifth-year option will be picked up, Gehlken adds, as could be expected given his status as a cornerstone player for the team. This would lock in Lamb through 2024, with his price rising next year. Without a fifth-year option available regarding Diggs, a second-round pick, the Cowboys will soon see their top cornerback enter a contract year.

Beyond Beckham, the market stands to include JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jakobi Meyers, DJ Chark and Allen Lazard. Michael Thomas also looks to be available, but the former Saints All-Pro has missed much of the past three seasons. At close to his best, Beckham would qualify as a dynamic weapon. He showed that during the Rams’ 2021 Super Bowl run, one that included an explosive Beckham Super Bowl LVI start before his ACL tear. Beckham did not play last season, healing the second of his two ACL tears sustained during the 2020s, and will turn 31 during the 2023 slate. The Cowboys, Rams and Giants are expected to resume their pursuits of the eight-year veteran, and while Dallas was viewed as the favorite during the late-season sweepstakes, this will be one of the harder price projections to make in recent free agency history.

The Cowboys ended up selling low on Amari Cooper, collecting late-round picks from the Browns for their former No. 1 receiver, and Gallup did not show his previous form after returning from the December 2021 ACL tear. Third-round pick Jalen Tolbert did not acclimate as quickly as the team hoped, Gehlken adds. The South Alabama alum did not see much action last season, and the Cowboys cut James Washington not long after he recovered from his summer foot fracture. Lamb, Gallup and Tolbert are the top receivers under contract; six-year Cowboy Noah Brown is also a free agent. Gallup also underwent arthroscopic knee surgery a few weeks ago but is expected to be ready for OTAs.

Cowboys target Brandin Cooks is again available via trade, though the Texans’ new price point remains to be seen, but Gehlken adds the team is not close on trading for a pass catcher. DeAndre Hopkins joins Cooks in being on the trade block. Jonathan Gannon stopped short of guaranteeing Hopkins will be a Cardinal in 2023, Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com notes, and the former All-Pro’s 2022 PED suspension voided his no-trade clause.

Dallas’ recent big skill-position swings have moved the needle significantly. Cooper made two Pro Bowls as a Cowboy and reeled off three 1,000-yard seasons, while Lamb — chosen after Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy but before Justin Jefferson — broke through for a career-high 1,359 yards and nine touchdown catches in 2022. It appears a serious effort to complement Lamb and Pollard will commence soon.

Cowboys Unlikely To Re-Sign Dalton Schultz

A key Dak Prescott target for years, Dalton Schultz did not have the opportunity to test free agency last year. The veteran Cowboys tight end likely will in March.

It is believed the Cowboys will not be ready to pay Schultz enough to keep him from hitting the market and ultimately leaving town, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes. With a modest wide receiver crop set to become free agents, Schultz stands to be one of the top pass catchers available.

It would cost the Cowboys just more than $13MM to tag Schultz again, but the team is believed to be preparing to tag Tony Pollard. The Pro Bowl running back is indeed squarely on the tag radar, Archer confirms. The running back tag being only $10.1MM — the second-lowest tag figure — makes that a more appealing solution for teams with upper-echelon backs nearing free agency. Teams have until 3pm CT March 7 to tag players. The Cowboys negotiated with Schultz ahead of last year’s deadline; contract length stood as one of the issues that impeded an agreement.

Schultz, 26, did not match his 2021 production but served as CeeDee Lamb‘s top complement down the stretch for the 12-5 team. Upon returning from an early-season knee injury, Schultz struggled to develop a rapport with Cooper Rush. But the former fourth-round pick posted two two-touchdown games during the season’s second half. His 38.5 receiving yards per game, however, ranked 12th among tight ends last season. Schultz, who became needed as a post-Jason Witten option after Blake Jarwin found injuries too difficult to surmount, topped that number in 2021 — an 808-yard, eight-touchdown season that led the Cowboys to tag him.

Schultz’s 2021 numbers, at full strength and with Prescott fully available, will likely entice teams. Both tight ends that played last season on the tag — Schultz and the Dolphins’ Mike Gesicki — are expected to hit the market. Gesicki is coming off a bigger production decrease compared to Schultz. Evan Engram is on track for free agency as well, but the Jaguars have the tag as a weapon to prevent that. Engram not reaching free agency would help Schultz and Gesicki, thinning the talent pool at the position. Austin Hooper, Hayden Hurst and Robert Tonyan are also free agents-to-be.

The Cowboys used a fourth-round pick on Jake Ferguson last year, and Archer adds the team is fond of three-year backup Sean McKeon. Ferguson led all other Dallas tight ends with 174 yards last season. If Schultz leaves, the Cowboys should be expected to eye a cheaper replacement in free agency or seek more help in what is viewed as a tight end-rich draft. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah called it the best tight end class in a decade (Twitter link).

Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones: “I Don’t Expect A Trade”

The Cowboys defeated the Lions 24-6 on Sunday to improve their record to 5-2. That mark is only good for third place in the improved NFC East, but Dallas is clearly in the mix to win the division for the second consecutive year, and it is firmly entrenched as a potential buyer in advance of the November 1 trade deadline.

Owner Jerry Jones, though, is not expecting his club to swing a deal. “I don’t see that,” Jones said on Sunday (via Jon Machota of The Athletic on Twitter). “I don’t expect a trade.” Jones said he would be “all in” if the Cowboys could acquire a player of Deion Sanders‘ caliber, which is just a tongue-in-cheek way of saying he does not foresee a trade coming together in the next week.

Jones is doubtlessly encouraged by the fact that four of the Cowboys’ five wins have come with backup signal-caller Cooper Rush under center. QB1 Dak Prescott returned for the victory over Detroit after suffering a hand injury in a Week 1 loss to the Bucs, and he eventually found a rhythm in his first game action in six weeks. The star of the game, though, was the Dallas defense, which forced five turnovers in yet another strong performance.

Coming into Sunday’s matchup, the Cowboys ranked eighth in the NFL in total defense and third in points allowed per game, and the five takeaways against the Lions will put them near the top of the league in that category as well. The picture has not been as rosy on the offensive side of the ball, but it would be fair to expect a noticeable improvement with Prescott back in the fold.

However, even the deepest NFL rosters have one or two positions that could use a boost, and the Cowboys are no exception. The team’s running back tandem of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard has been strong, but an addition to a WR corps that lost Amari Cooper in the offseason may be worth exploring, and there are plenty of wideouts who profile as potential trade candidates. A tight end reinforcement may also be appropriate in light of the knee issues that have been plaguing Dalton Schultz, issues that cropped up again on Sunday (Twitter link via ESPN’s Field Yates). Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki, like Schultz, is playing the 2022 season under the franchise tag, and he may be available if Miami receives an offer to its liking.

As far as the defense is concerned, an already strong unit would clearly benefit from a middle linebacker and/or interior defensive lineman to shore up its weakness against runs between the tackles. Adding a player like Bears LB Roquan Smith may have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the front seven and could further strengthen a pass rush that has been performing at an elite level.

Jones’ comments notwithstanding, the Cowboys will clearly do their due diligence and will pull the trigger if the right player becomes available for the right price. At the moment, though, the most recognizable owner in the league does not believe that will happen.

NFC East Notes: Wentz, Cowboys, Collins

Although Carson Wentz scrutiny has intensified over the past two seasons, he has not missed time due to injury in that span. But the Commanders quarterback will be playing hurt for the time being. Wentz is battling a right biceps tendon strain, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, who adds this issue injected some doubt into the seventh-year quarterback’s availability against the Bears on Thursday night. Wentz will play and hope he can improve during Washington’s upcoming mini-bye.

Wentz, who has thrown 10 touchdown passes this season, ranks 24th in QBR going into Washington’s Week 6 game. Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • Another player who has dealt with a litany of injuries, Jason Peters may return to action sooner than expected. A chest injury was rumored to affect the 40-year-old lineman’s status for multiple weeks, but after going through practice Wednesday, Peters declared himself “ready to roll” for Sunday night’s Cowboys-Eagles tilt (via The Athletic’s Jon Machota, on Twitter). Peters practiced in a limited capacity to start the week. He has played in two games with Dallas, seeing his Week 4 snap count (34) rise from his Cowboys debut (22). Peters has rotated in with both Connor McGovern and Matt Farniok at left guard this season.
  • Dalton Schultz aggravated the knee injury that forced him to miss Week 4. The franchise-tagged Cowboys tight end returned to action in Los Angeles but left the game due to his PCL issue flaring up, Pelissero tweets. While this is a bit concerning, Pelissero adds no new damage occurred. Schultz still has a chance to play against the Eagles. Schultz got in a limited practice Wednesday. Like fellow tagged tight end Mike Gesicki, Schultz has not made much of an impact this season. He will enter Week 6 with nine catches for 80 yards and no touchdowns.
  • Landon Collins initially left the Giants after Washington blew him away with a six-year, $84MM offer in 2019, but the veteran defender said he wanted to stay in New York. “I would have definitely loved to be here. It sucked,” Collins said, via the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz, of leaving New York three years ago. “I honestly wanted to stay but [former GM Dave] Gettleman didn’t want me here. Had to take my chances somewhere else.” The Giants, who drafted Collins under a previous regime, did not submit an offer to the former second-rounder on the way out. Collins, who caught on with the Giants’ practice squad last week, is not expected to be activated this week, per Schwartz. But the Pro Bowl safety-turned-linebacker is ramping up toward a near-future hybrid role. Collins, 28, said he wants to retire with the Giants. His 2022 play will determine how realistic that prospect is.

Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz Expected To Return In Week 4

The Cowboys are still awaiting the return of their starting quarterback, but one of his favorite pass-catchers is set to return tomorrow. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that tight end Dalton Schultz is expected to play against the Commanders (Twitter link). 

[RELATED: Cowboys QB Prescott Targeting Week 5 Return]

Schultz missed out on Dallas’ Week 3 contest due to a PCL injury. His recovery has gone smoothly, however, leading to optimism that he would not be sidelined for very long. A return to full health would be a welcomed sight for the Cowboys, considering the fact that Schultz was on the field for every offensive play in the team’s season opener and logged a 90% snap share the following week.

A 2018 fourth-round pick, the 26-year-old emerged as a key contributor in the team’s highly-productive passing game over the past two years. That led to the Cowboys making the expected decision of placing the franchise tag on him. At times, it seemed as though a long-term deal would be reached, but nothing materialized, tying the Stanford alum to a $10.9MM cap figure this season.

Especially given the lack of proven players in Dallas’ pass-catching corps to start the campaign, that led to significant expectations for Schultz. So far, he has totaled just nine catches for 80 scoreless yards, though one of his two contests came with backup Cooper Rush under center, of course. That will be the case for at least one more week.

It remains to be seen if wideout Michael Gallup will make his season debut. He continues to rehab the torn ACL which he suffered last December; there were indications that he would play in a limited capacity last week, but the team has understandably remained cautious with his return to the field. With CeeDee Lamb operating as the unquestioned No. 1 at the position, Dallas’ passing game currently ranks 25th in the league with an average of 216 yards per game. A healthy Schultz and Gallup could go a long way to that figure improving, and Dallas moving to 3-1 on the season.

Latest On Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz, WR Michael Gallup

SEPTEMBER 26: Although a run of Gallup-related optimism emerged this week, the Cowboys will still opt for caution regarding the fifth-year wideout. Gallup will not play against the Giants in Week 3, Jane Slater of NFL.com tweets. The Cowboys are hopeful Gallup, who got in three limited practices leading up to this Giants matchup, can make his debut against the Commanders next week. Gallup did not suffer a setback, Slater adds (via Twitter). Schultz is expected to miss the game as well, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets.

SEPTEMBER 21: There’s some good news on the Cowboys’ injury front. According to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter), tight end Dalton Schultz avoided a serious knee injury and shouldn’t miss much time. Gehlken also tweets that wide receiver Michael Gallup could make his season debut on Monday night against the Giants.

Schultz suffered a knee injury during Sunday’s win over the Bengals, but an MRI later revealed that his injury could have been much worse. The tight end is specifically dealing with a PCL injury, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer (on Twitter), and he’s currently considered day-to-day. Jerry Jones cautioned yesterday that Schultz could end up sitting out Week 3, but if that’s the case, it sounds like it should only be a one-week absence.

The tight end had a strong season in 2021, finishing with 808 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Through two games this season, the 26-year-old has hauled in nine receptions for 80 yards.

Meanwhile, Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones said it’s “certainly possible” that Gallup takes the field on Monday night (per Gehlken on Twitter), while Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News tweets that Gallup will indeed play but will be on a snap count. The receiver tore his ACL in Week 17 of the 2021 season, and he later inked a five-year, $62.5MM extension with Dallas this offseason.

“The plan for Michael Gallup is to get him a full week of work,” coach Mike McCarthy said (via Watkins). “He hasn’t had that yet. Hopefully when we get to the end of it, we’ll be able to make a decision. I think I talked about this last week, I really don’t see Michael going through a second padded practice, I thought his work last week was excellent. He frankly, did a little more than we anticipated in the beginning of the week. We’re going to try and give him a full slate this week and see how it goes.”