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Dallas Cowboys 2022 free agents: Where TE Dalton Schultz should fit in the Cowboys plans

The Cowboys tight end set himself up for a nice payday.

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Today we continue taking a look at the Dallas Cowboys’ upcoming free agents. Our fifth profile features 25-year-old Dalton Schultz. The tight end is coming off the best season of his career. Should Dallas look to keep him around long-term?

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Player: Dalton Schultz

Age: 25 (26 in July)

2021 Stats: 17 G, 104 targets, 78 receptions, 808 receiving yards, 10.4 Y/R, 8 touchdowns

2021 Review: Coming off a surprisingly productive season in 2020, fourth-year tight end Dalton Schultz looked to keep his arrow trending upwards heading into the final season of his deal. The 25-year-old did that and more, soaring past his career highs in every category and ending up as one of Dallas’ top performers on offense.

Schultz’s 2021 stats stack up with some of the best tight ends in football. The former fourth-round pick had the fourth-most targets, seventh-most receiving yards, and fifth-most touchdowns among starting tight ends. Pro Football Focus also ranked Schultz as the sixth-best starting tight end in football with a career-high 78.2 offensive grade.

Schultz’s career year could not have come at a better time, as he has set himself up to cash in on a big payday in free agency.

Free Agent Outlook: Schultz enters free agency as one of the top two tight ends in his class. Spotrac projects his market value at a four-year, $50.7 M deal ($12.6M average). In an article early last month, I mentioned how the deal Schultz may sign this offseason could end up looking very similar to the deal Hunter Henry signed with the New England Patriots last offseason.

In terms of what they may demand in a contract, Schultz’s next deal may wind up being similar to the one fellow tight end Hunter Henry signed with the New England Patriots. The now 27-year-old signed a three-year, $33M deal with the Patriots in 2020.

In Henry’s final two seasons before hitting free agency, he caught 115 passes for 1,265 yards and scored nine touchdowns. Schultz has actually posted better statistical seasons than Henry did in his final two years of his deal, catching 141 passes for 1,423 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns.

While Henry is an overall more talented athlete than Schultz, it’s hard to argue with production. While some may see his production as a byproduct of being on a talented offense, other teams may see a 25-year-old tight end on an upward trajectory.

Cowboys Fit: If Schultz does receive a deal worth $11-12M in free agency like he is projected to, it’s hard to see a way the Cowboys are able to bring him back. With their current cap situation, and so many other needs to address on their team, giving Schultz a long-term deal does not seem feasible. However, if Dallas does decide to part ways with some cap-heavy players like Amari Cooper or DeMarcus Lawrence, it could open the door for them to bring back Schultz.

Final Verdict: As nice as it would be to have Schultz back next year, the Cowboys simply don’t have the cap flexibility to do so. Look for Dallas to let Schultz walk and turn towards the draft or free agency to find a cheaper replacement option at tight end.

Prediction: Schultz signs a four-year deal with the New York Jets.