Coming into the 2020 season, the tight end spot was seen as one of the Cowboys’ weakest position groups. Dallas had newly re-signed Blake Jarwin as their starter. Despite getting a long-term contract, Jarwin was inexperienced. The 26-year-old had caught just 58 passes in his NFL career and found the end zone only six times.
Behind Jarwin was former fourth-round pick Dalton Schultz, and veteran Blake Bell. In their entire careers, the trio of Jarwin, Schultz, and Bell combined had caught just 109 passes coming into 2020. Bell and Schultz had never scored a single regular-season touchdown.
It’s safe to say there was some uncertainty at the position, to say the least. Things got even more uncertain when Jarwin tore his ACL in the season opener. Dallas was left to turn to the duo of Schultz and Bell to carry the position, and things looked bleak. That feeling changed pretty quickly.
As we enter the 2021 offseason, tight end looks like one of the Cowboys’ strongest position groups. Filling in for Jarwin, Dalton Schultz was one of the biggest positives of the 2020 season. The former Stanford Cardinal caught 63 passes for 615 yards and scored his first four NFL touchdowns. Schultz became the fifth tight end in franchise history to record 50 catches in a regular season, joining a group of Jason Witten, Jay Novacek, and Doug Cosbie.
Dalton Schultz in 2020— Carter (@FASHlONKlLLA_) January 5, 2021
3.4% drop rate
Still under 25 years old.
Dallas, you have your franchise tight end. pic.twitter.com/uHIkTwJ9mF
Bell on the other hand served primarily as a blocker and did a really solid job. Pro Football Focus awarded Bell with an 84.2 pass-block grade on the season, the highest of any tight end in the entire NFL. He did not allow a single QB pressure and was not penalized once the entire season.
Great job by The Bell Dozer of helping pin Brandon Graham inside on the combo before widening 42 to create a running lane to the 2nd level for Zeke. #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/kRRdCmVKgV— John Owning (@JohnOwning) January 1, 2021
Bell is an impending free agent, but Dallas should be interested in bringing him back on a relatively cheap deal. John Owning of the Dallas Morning News mentioned why that would be a good idea in his recent article.
While Jarwin’s impending return would lead many to allow Bell to test free agency, I think the niche role Bell carved out for himself shouldn’t be affected much by Jarwin’s return. While losing Bell wouldn’t be anything near catastrophic, his role and effectiveness are valuable enough that I wouldn’t want to lose him to another team.
Bell is a cheap veteran who would be the perfect blocking/No. 3 TE in the Cowboys’ offense in 2021.
If they are able to bring Bell back, Dallas goes into the season with a three-headed monster at the tight end spot. Quarterback Dak Prescott seems to have a great rapport with both the pass-catching tight ends, and it’s completely realistic to think that Jarwin and Schultz both could be weapons in the passing game next season.
It’s funny how much can change in a year. Once looked at as a major weakness, the Cowboys’ tight end spot will be one of their strongest position groups entering 2021.