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3 reasons why the Cowboys should make Dalton Schultz a free agent priority

The savvy pass catcher might be a little more valuable than we realize in Dallas.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys have some tough decisions to make when it comes to which of their own free agents they should re-sign. The team will inevitably part ways with several key players, but it’s unclear what direction they’ll go with many of them. One of the biggest names is Dalton Schultz who is coming off a career season with 78 catches for 808 yards and eight touchdowns. It’s entirely possible that Schultz has played his last down in a Cowboys uniform, and that would be a bad thing.

Here are three reasons why the Cowboys front office should make Schultz a free agent priority.

Keep this offense as Dak-friendly as possible

There is a lot of frustration regarding the Cowboys' offensive struggles in the second half of the season. And with that frustration comes a lot of finger-pointing. Is it Dak Prescott’s fault? Is Kellen Moore letting us down? Why is the offensive line so terrible at times?

There is plenty of blame to go around, but we should be asking ourselves what needs to happen for the offense to play at a high level. Is Kellen Moore letting the team, and Prescott down, with his play-calling? Or is the play-calling just fine and Dak’s just not the guy to get it done against top-tier defenses?

Honestly, this one is challenging because we’ve seen this group look sharp before. The team has invested a lot of money into Prescott and the responsible thing to do is to continue to provide tools around Prescott so he can be successful. Because if they don’t, they will surely spin their wheels.

There is not a more Dak-friendly player on this offense than tight end Dalton Schultz. Are you willing to take that away and take your chances the offense will keep rolling without Prescott’s biggest security blanket?

They have no ideal replacement

There was a point when it was thought maybe that Sean McKeon could step in and fill Schultz’s role in the future after he flashed some good play in training camp. The youngster has shown some nice development already and like Schultz, he’s a fundamentally sound in-line blocker. Unfortunately, injuries have made it tough for the second-year player to get in a groove. First, he suffered an ankle injury in preseason that sidelined him for the first half, and then he missed Week 14 with a neck injury. While McKeon did catch his first NFL touchdown this year, we really didn’t get an extensive look at what he could offer.

The Cowboys still have Blake Jarwin under contract for a couple more seasons, but he’s had trouble staying healthy, missing 22 games over the past two seasons. Jarwin is also the team’s worst blocking tight end, so he’s not an ideal candidate to step into that same type of role. The team may look to re-sign veteran Jeremy Sprinkle to another deal if the price is right as he’s a solid blocker, but he’s a huge step down in what the Cowboys have in Schultz as a pass-catcher.

Finally, the new draft class offers a lot of good options at tight end, but even if they made a good selection there it would take some time to develop him. In short, there is no quick answer to immediately replace what Schultz gives this Cowboys team.

He might be special

Jason Witten was a special player for the Cowboys and he’ll eventually be wearing a gold jacket, so making willy-nilly comparisons with the next guy that comes along doesn’t seem right. However, if you look at what Schultz brings to this offense, it’s hard not to see flashes of a Witten-esque player. Schultz was on our radar four years ago when he was still with Stanford because of the qualities he possessed as a tight end. He was one of my three 2018 tight end draft prospects who could come in and play a Witten-like role on this team. Here is what I had to say about him pre-draft:

Dalton Schultz, Stanford

If there is a Jason Witten clone in this draft, Schultz might be it. The Stanford tight end is a physical blocker with strong fundamentals and has been a key part of the team’s blocking scheme. He would fit nicely with the Cowboys rushing attack.

He’s not fast, but is sharp out of his breaks and makes for a great target on underneath routes. Schultz has a knack for attacking the voids in coverage and has proven to be a reliable target. His numbers aren’t impressive as he only had 22 catches for 212 yards last season.

While Schultz didn’t show much of his pass-catching ability in college, he has gradually established himself as a legit stick-mover over the last two seasons. You have to go back almost a decade to find when Witten was putting up the numbers Schultz had this season. And during Witten’s 17-year career, only twice did he reach the eight touchdown mark like Schultz did this season. Witten’s career-high is nine touchdowns.

On the surface, Schultz seems very plain and offers no mind-blowing athleticism. But on the field, he’s a machine. He sells his blocks, sneaks between coverage, and has established himself as Dak Prescott’s woobie (shout out to our own Kelsey Charles for the clever woobie reference). You just can’t put a price on that. Actually, you can and the Cowboys should be prepared to pay that price.