Dalton Schultz

Texans, TE Dalton Schultz Agree To Deal

A mutual interest was known to exist between the Texans and tight end Dalton SchultzAn agreement has been worked out between the sides; Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports a three-year, $36MM contract is now in place.

The pact includes $23.5MM fully guaranteed at signing, making the negotiating process a highly successful one for Schultz and his representation. After joining Houston on a one-year agreement last offseason, the former Cowboys starter has secured a long-term investment with an up-and-coming AFC contender.

Schultz made it clear last month that he intended to remain with the Texans if possible. Likewise, Houston remained interested in working out an agreement after the success of his debut season with the team. With wideout Nico Collins and Tank Dell in place for at least one more season, Schultz will comprise an effective third element in the Texans’ passing game.

The latter developed into a solid producer with the Cowboys beginning in 2020 in particular. He upped his value considerably during his Dallas tenure, peaking with a statline of 78-808-8 the following year. No agreement could be worked out on a long-term deal, though, and Schultz played on the franchise tag in 2022. His play that season set him up for free agency, where he only landed a $6.25MM Texans contract. Today’s accord will essentially double his AAV compared to last year’s.

Entering his age-28 season, Schultz will be counted on to remain a consistent contributor over the life of the contract. He recorded 635 yards and five touchdowns on 59 receptions in 2023, helping Offensive Rookie of the Year C.J. Stroud lead the team to the divisional round. Their relationship will now continue for the foreseeable future, as Houston looks to keep as many core pieces in place as possible.

A splashy addition at the running back spot has been circulated in the Texans’ case, and it will be interesting to see if that plays out. In any event, though, Schultz is locked in as an integral component of the team’s efforts to build off last year’s success.

Latest On Texans, TE Dalton Schultz

Dalton Schultz‘s free agent market underwhelmed last year. After being franchise-tagged by the Cowboys in 2022, the veteran starter settled for a one-year, $6.5MM Texans accord. It seems likely he will fare better this year.

The Texans are interested in retaining Schultz, with KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson indicating the tight end still wants to stay in Houston. Naturally, it will come down to terms. The Cowboys prevented Schultz from testing the market two years ago, and teams had cooled on the former Jason Witten successor by 2023. After another solid showing as a pass catcher, Schultz should have a chance to make up for lost time if he hits the open market.

[RELATED: Jonathan Greenard’s FA Price Rising]

Although neither of the tight ends who played 2022 on the tag did well as free agents in 2023 — Mike Gesicki scored just $4.5MM in base value from the Patriots — ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes many teams expect Schultz to command a deal north of $10MM per year.

Evan Engram and Cole Kmet became the latest tight ends to cross the eight-figure-per-year threshold, doing so in 2023; 11 TEs are there presently. This market has not shown substantial growth, but Schultz’s production should warrant a commitment in this range. He ranks in the top 10 in receptions, yards and touchdowns among tight ends since taking the reins in Dallas in 2020. The 6-foot-5 pass catcher has topped 575 yards in each season, reaching 808 in 2021 and totaling 635 and five TDs in Houston last season.

The Patriots could potentially be in play for Schultz, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler writes. They have Hunter Henry‘s three-year deal coming off the books soon. That said, the Pats’ 2021 tight end splurge — for Henry and Jonnu Smith — offered middling results. Henry did produce at points, however, and the Patriots have carved out considerable cap space ahead of Jerod Mayo‘s first offseason in charge. As of Sunday morning, New England leads the league with $101MM in cap room. The Texans carry a hefty amount, too, holding just more than $70MM.

Barring 11th-hour re-ups, this year’s TE free agent crop is set to include Schultz, Smith, Henry, Gesicki, Noah Fant and Gerald Everett. Fant is a player who figures to join Schultz as a coveted free agent, Fowler adds. Included in the Russell Wilson trade, Fant did not see his numbers spike in Seattle. After back-to-back seasons north of 650 yards in Denver, Fant did not clear 500 in either Seattle slate. But the Iowa product carries a first-round pedigree and is going into his age-26 season.

Nico Collins Open To Texans Extension; Latest On Team’s WR Plans

A major element of the Texans’ surprise run to the divisional round was an uptick in passing efficiency with C.J. Stroud at quarterback. The play of the Offensive Rookie of the Year helped wideout Nico Collins enjoy a career year, and it could help him land a lucrative extension.

Having played three seasons in the NFL, the latter is now eligible for a second contract. Collins’ value saw a major spike over the course of the 2023 slate given his production compared to his first two seasons. The former third-rounder averaged 35 receptions and 464 yards per campaign in 2021-22, but Stroud’s arrival sparked a major step forward. Collins posted a statline of 80-1,297-8 in 2023, operating as Stroud’s top target.

To little surprise, the 24-year-old is open to parlaying his production into an extension. Collins recently confirmed his willingness to open negotiations when speaking to Aaron Wilson of KPRC2. Wilson notes, however, that it is currently unclear if the Texans and Collins’ agents have discussed a deal. Nevertheless, he adds that there is “definitely mutual interest” in an agreement keeping the Michigan alum in the fold beyond 2024.

Collins and 2023 third-rounder Tank Dell profile as giving Houston a productive 1-2 punch at the receiver position. For that reason, Wilson writes that the Texans are likely to be interested only in second- or third-tier WR options on the free agent market. The team is set to have considerable spending power in March, but other positions will represent more pressing roster needs. Collins could further boost his value with a strong follow-up campaign in 2024, something which will of course be easier if he remains the team’s leader in targets.

A new contract for tight end Dalton Schultz is also on the team’s radar, Wilson notes. The ex-Cowboy is interested in a re-up, and agreeing to one could provide Houston with three familiar pass-catching options for at least one more season. Changes on offense (including at the running back spot) could be taking place in the near future, but a major addition amongst available receivers would come as a surprise. Collins is therefore on track to showcase himself for the Texans or outside suitors next season in the event an extension does not come to fruition in the coming months.

TE Dalton Schultz Wants To Remain With Texans

Dalton Schultz joined a new team for the first time in his career last offseason, signing with the Texans after a five-year run with the Cowboys. If he has his way, he will remain in Houston for at least the 2024 campaign.

From 2020-22 in particular, Schultz established himself as one of Dak Prescott‘s top targets. He showed considerable potential with a career year in 2021, posting 808 yards and eight touchdowns on 78 receptions. Despite having relatively high stock heading into free agency last spring, though, he inked only a one-year deal with the Texans worth $6.25MM in guaranteed money.

In his debut Houston campaign, the 27-year-old delivered another strong campaign. Schultz finished with a 59-635-5 statline in 15 regular season games, adding a touchdown grab in the team’s surprise run to the divisional round of the playoffs. He could be in line for a contract keeping him in Houston for the time being, something he would welcome.

“I’d love to be in Houston,” Schultz said during a recent appearance on SportsRadio610“There’s no doubt about that. I loved my time. Special organization, special quarterback. Love the scheme, love the coaches, I’ve loved everything about Houston. I’m confident that we can find some common ground.”

After quarterback C.J. Stroud won Offensive Rookie of the Year with a commendable performance and first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans guided the team to a division title and wild-card win, the Texans certainly profile as an attractive free agent destination. Schultz would be counted on as a key option in the passing game alongside wideouts Nico Collins and Tank Dell if he were to be retained.

The Cowboys were unsuccessful in working out a long-term agreement with Schultz, however. That resulted in the former fourth-rounder playing on the franchise tag in 2022. He could aim for a raise from his previous pact, though a deal placing him amongst the 12 tight ends earning $10MM or more per season would likely come as a surprise. Schultz’s deal is set to void on February 19, which would trigger a $3.38MM cap charge for the 2024 season. The team would therefore be well-served to hammer out a new deal before that time if Schultz’s desire for an extended stay in Houston is reciprocated.

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).