Free agency is a week away and it won’t be long before all of the questions we’ve been pondering lately will slowly be revealed. Yesterday, we provided a complete 2023 offseason guide for the Dallas Cowboys that offers up some ideas of what the team should do over the next few months. But, as we embark on the free agent spending frenzy that is about to occur (not by the Cowboys however), there are still some important questions hanging over our heads. Here are three burning questions that have been on the minds of Cowboys Nation.
Why are the Cowboys considering hanging on to Zeke?
It seems rather apparent that the Cowboys' once-star running back has lost his juice as his yearly production continues to plummet. It’s taken them a while, but the team has finally injected more Tony Pollard into the offense and it’s paid off. The 25-year-old running back is coming off his best season where he earned Pro Bowl honors. The Cowboys front office has made it clear that Pollard will be a part of the team in 2023, and in all likelihood be slapped with the franchise tag.
So, if Pollard is the guy, why keep Elliott around? He has a $10.9 million base salary this upcoming season, but that won’t stand. If Zeke plays for the Cowboys this year, it will come at a reduced pay rate. But even still, why would the team even throw a few million his way? Do they feel Elliott’s declining play was attributed to not being at full health? It seems like it would be rather easy to supplement his contributions to the team just by adding a new rookie running back that will come super cheap.
The only reason the Cowboys should be considering this is if they have some sixth sense that he’ll bring something extra to the table that’s been missing these last few years. Financially, Elliott’s not due any more guaranteed money so any additional salary they give him at this point will just add to his overall cost. From a bookkeeping perspective, keeping him around another year allows all his bonus money ($11.8 million) to be spread out over three years rather than two if he was designated a post-June 1st cut.
Are Dalton Schultz’ playing days over in Dallas?
When talking about the franchise tag, the front office specifically stated that it might not necessarily be Pollard who gets it. If that’s true, then that means they are entertaining the idea of Schultz as well because no other free agent even sniffs around that conversation. But even that’s a stretch because it’s hard to imagine the team ponying up the cash for Schultz when they have other needs. Not only that, but the rookie tight ends last season, Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot, had great years and look up to the task of taking on a larger role in 2023.
Schultz doesn’t possess any eye-popping athleticism that screams “pay him the big bucks” but he does provide a very reliable safety net for his quarterback. There will be buyers in Schultz and while he might not set a new market for tight ends, it will be more than the Cowboys are willing to pay.
A team with a young quarterback would benefit from a seasoned pro like Schultz, but the Cowboys can get by without him. Plus, there is some good talent in this year’s draft class. Look at Utah’s Dalton Kincaid. His skill set already looks like an experienced Schultz and that first name is just baiting teams to think that. There’s also Michigan’s Luke Schoonmaker who brings that in-line skill set with an untapped pass-catching ability. If that’s not Schultzy-like, we don’t know what is.
Is it worth it to keep Tyron Smith around?
We all love Tyron Smith, and if we all had our druthers, we’d love to have more of him. Unfortunately, not having enough of him is what’s hurt this team in recent years. When the 21-year-old pup joined the squad back in 2011, he was the poster child for reliability. The stud left tackle only missed one game over this first five years in the league. Sadly, he hasn’t played a full season since, missing time in seven straight seasons. And making matters worse, he’s missed a total of 35 games over the last three years. Basically, he’s missed two of the last three seasons.
When he’s on the field, there’s no denying he’s an asset. He may not be the dominant left tackle he once was, but any team would gladly love to have him protect their edge. What makes this decision difficult is that he carries a base salary of $13.6 million this season and that’s quite expensive for a guy who isn’t an odds-on favorite to make it through the year unscathed.
The Cowboys have a great up-and-coming star in Tyler Smith who, because of Tyron’s fragility, started all 17 games and played in the most offensive snaps of anyone on the team last year. They also have Terence Steele who will receive a second-round tender and an eventual contract extension. His recovery is coming along great and both the young TS’s will be the future bookends of this offensive line. Could the Cowboys still use some depth at tackle? Absolutely, but not for a cost of $13.6 million. If the team is able to work a pay restructure, then we’ll be signing a completely different tune.