Why giving Dalton Schultz a long-term deal shouldn’t even be a discussion for the Cowboys - Jean-Jacques Taylor, Dallas Morning News
Dallas’ tight end has been at the center of conversation for the past two days.
No defensive coordinator is sitting around this offseason trying to figure out how to stop Schultz. That’s not a knock, just reality.
He caught 78 passes for 808 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He’s good, but he’s not the difference between winning or losing a championship. Those are the players who deserve the richest contracts. Schultz, who’s reportedly sitting out voluntary team activities until his contract gets resolved, is earning $10.9 million this season since the club put the franchise tag on him.
That’s the sixth-highest figure on the team. It’s more than CeeDee Lamb, Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs, each of whom should get a long-term big-money deal from the Cowboys sooner than later.
They’re all more important than Schultz and you don’t want his money compromising theirs in a year or two.
An opposing viewpoint on the Cowboys/Schultz contract dilemma.
So if the Cowboys are serious about keeping Schultz in the long run, and the franchise tag suggests they are, then Njoku’s deal is probably the new starting point in negotiations. That’s a bitter pill to swallow for a front office that’s become notorious for nickel-and-diming players at every turn they get, but it’s the reality of the situation they find themselves in.
Here’s the good news for Dallas: they have plenty of pie now. In fact, they’ve got the fourth-most cap space of any NFL team right now with $22.5 million. That’s also counting Schultz’s fully guaranteed $10.931 million tag already on the books.
Here’s the even better news: the Cowboys can afford to buy high on Schultz.
This is because the tight end market is still lagging pretty far behind other positional groupings in terms of value. For example, Njoku’s annual average value is fifth among tight ends but that’s still only 65th among all offensive players in the NFL; the NFL’s highest-paid tight end, George Kittle, is still only the 54th highest paid offensive player by annual average value.
Taking a look at some UDFAs that could make the 53.
4. Markquese Bell, S. Easily one of my favorite UDFAs, Safety Markquese Bell has a real shot at making the most impact in Year One. Although some fans will point out that safety help may not be necessary since the team has Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, Israel Mukuamu, and Donovan Wilson, you can argue there is no one beyond those four who’s proven.
Bell can give the Cowboys another hard-hitting safety who can help in the run game, and the idea of him running out there with Kearse and Hooker makes me excited.
It may be too early to predict for him to be a world-class defender off-the-bat, but with reports of him grabbing a pick-six in OTAs and the coaches constantly praising him, Bell should be on the 53-man roster.
Who do you think is the Cowboys' biggest X-Factor this season?
Dallas Cowboys: OT Terence Steele. The Dallas Cowboys fielded the NFL's top offensive line last season, according to Pro Football Focus. But that line faces a test in 2022, as left guard Connor Williams departed in free agency, and they cut right tackle La'El Collins. The Cowboys used their first-round pick on Tulsa guard Tyler Smith to replace Williams. They're seemingly going the in-house route at tackle, promoting third-year pro Terence Steele to the starting lineup.
An undrafted free agent from Texas Tech, Steele has played quite a bit over his first two seasons due to injuries and Collins' six-game suspension last season. He surrendered only two sacks across 910 snaps last year, per PFF. However, Steele has also been inconsistent and prone to lapses, as Mark Heaney wrote for The Landry Hat:
"He finished in the top ten in penalties allowed last year, a stat that unfortunately nearly all of the Dallas offensive line dominated in 2021. In the year prior, he finished second in sacks allowed league-wide. That could have more to do with him being a rookie, and he has since improved on that number, but the technical issues that engulfed Steele in his first year are not gone."
The rookie offensive linemen possesses some intriguing traits.
How he got here: For all the time and effort that goes into covering the draft, some names are going to slip through the cracks. That was the case for Waletzko, who became just the second FCS player drafted by the Cowboys in the last eight years when they grabbed him No. 155 overall in this year's draft. Waletzko was named first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference during his senior season, and he became just the 24th North Dakota player drafted in program history, as well as the first since 2006.
What's next: It's not common to put high expectations on a fifth-round draft pick, but the Cowboys aren't shying away from giving Waletzko a big opportunity right off the bat. This team has yet to sign a veteran swing tackle this offseason, and Cowboys officials indicated after the draft that they didn't plan on it. That leaves Waletzko and Josh Ball as the primary options behind starters Tyron Smith and Terence Steele.
Through two weeks of OTAs, Waletzko is getting a lot of reps – including a few opportunities in the starting lineup. It's obvious that the Cowboys want their young tackles to step up and prove themselves worthy of playing time. If he puts together a strong training camp, Waletzko could find himself as this team's swing tackle as a rookie.
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