The Position Breakdown Series is taking every position group for the Dallas Cowboys and looking at the players, their rankings, contract numbers and predicting the upcoming season for each player.
This edition is looking at the tight end position for Dallas, so let’s get straight to it.
Luke Schoonmaker #86
2022 Stats: (College)
Yards Per Catch: 11.9
First Downs: 23
Cap Cost- $1,139,398 (0.5% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $3,342,441
Base Salary- $750,000
Signing Bonus- $389,398
Tom - If Schoonmaker is not TE1 by the end of September, the plan is not going well. He was drafted in the second round to take the place of Dalton Schultz, and that is not just in the sense of having a similar style. He is hoped to be the security blanket for Dak Prescott as well as a reliable possession receiver and serviceable run blocker.
Schoonmaker may be able to do everything Schultz did, only better. While he may not be the starter right out of the gate, people are going to be very pleased with him. My favorite thing about him is his sure hands and catch radius. If you look at any highlights from his Wolverines career, he seems to always be hauling in passes behind him. Schultz dropped too many last year, and if Schoonmaker can correct that, this offense should be looking for bright days ahead.
Mike - The issue with tight ends is how long it takes them to reach their potential, and for Schoonmaker that means he’s a year behind in development than Jake Ferguson. The one thing though that Schoonmaker has over Ferguson is blocking. At this stage, even with a year playing in the NFL for Ferguson, Schoonmaker is the better all-round blocker, and in the NFL as a tight end you have to be a good blocker to get serious snaps. But what does work in both Schoonmaker and Ferguson’s favor is that they have very different skill sets that offset each other. In this new Texas Coast offense that’s currently getting installed, there will be heavy elements of 12-man personnel, which means both tight ends get on the field at the same time. The damage they will be able to do while both players are on the field using their different abilities will be fun to watch. For me, this year Schoonmaker and Ferguson will split the workload as the primary tight end with Schoonmaker overtaking Ferguson in the next couple of years. But this season Schoonmaker looks to get around 20-30 receptions and somewhere around 300 receiving yards, and around three or four touchdowns.
Jake Ferguson #87
Experience: 2 years
Yards Per Catch: 9.2
First Downs: 8
Cap Cost- $1,046,221 (0.4% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $0
Base Salary- $870,000
Signing Bonus- $176,221
Tom - I’m going to address something that needs to be clarified. Many were dismayed about Dallas using their second-round pick on Schoonmaker to become the starter fairly soon after seeing multiple discussions of how the duo of Ferguson and Hendershot meant that they could afford to let Schultz walk. Both are true. Ferguson showed enough last season that there was a reasonable hope that he would be at least serviceable as the starter if needed. But he’s very inexperienced and the staff clearly thinks Schoonmaker is an upgrade. Ferguson was a bit of an insurance policy before the draft, and he is now a different kind as TE2.
I still think he will play a significant role and was a good find in the fourth round. He and Hendershot may offer the chance to see something I always kind of long for, using two tight end sets to pass.
Mike - Depending what mood you find me is who I’m choosing to be the TE1 for Dallas this year. What is clear though is this Mike McCarthy brand of football loves tight ends a lot and so does Dak. Just looking at the amount of draft capital they’ve used the last two years on the position is testament to that fact. Last year Ferguson looked great when he got the chance, and what’s apparent is his athleticism and route running skills. The coaching staff felt so good about what they have in Ferguson they didn’t even try to keep Schultz around, so you have to think this season they want him to be their guy.
The only short fall for Ferguson is his blocking skills, but as Cowboys fans we’ve seen this tandem at the position before. In time, Ferguson and Schoonmaker can be what we had once in Jason Witten and Blake Jarwin. Schoonmaker will play the role that Witten had while Ferguson plays more of the role that Jarwin played, it will just take time to develop. This year, Ferguson is going to get an increase in production, say 40-50 receptions and over 450 yards receiving.
Peyton Hendershot #89
Experience: 2 years
Yards Per Catch: 9.4
Rushing TD: 1
Cap Cost- $875,000 (0.3% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $10,000
Base Salary- $870,000
Signing Bonus- $5,000
Tom - Make Peyton Hendershot a passing down specialist, please. He showed some flashes of real ability working the seam down the field. With all the top three TEs, I am going to be very interested in what Mike McCarthy and Brian Schottenheimer can come up with. They each have a different style. Let’s see those utilized.
Mike - Hendershot won the people’s choice award last season and this season every fan can say they are excited to see what progression he’s made this offseason. Hendershot can use his quickness and speed like none of the other tight ends, so there’s a clear role for him in this offense. His use and production shouldn’t change too much from last year given they drafted a tight end to take Schultz old position, but making him play from a number positions on the offense as a move-tight end will expand this playbook and give the offense extra dimensions to play with. For a fun hot-take let’s predict Hendershot finishes the season with the most touchdowns out of the tight end group.
Sean McKeon #84
Experience: 4 years
Yards Per Catch: 5.5
Cap Cost- $1,010,000 (0.4% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $0
Base Salary- $1,010,000
Signing Bonus- $0
Tom - If they carry four TEs on the roster, McKeon is the most likely option, even if he might be inactive for many games. Otherwise, they will try and stash him on the PS - although a strong preseason may make that difficult.
Mike - McKeon and Schoonmaker spent time playing together not too long ago so this should make for a fun reunion for these two guys. But the best way for McKeon to carve a role in Dallas would be to insure he makes himself a worthy special teams player and work into the offense that way. If they do keep four tight ends that’s a lot of roster space when you combine the tight end numbers and running back players everyone wants the coaches to keep on the final roster.
Seth Green #47
Mike - This is a tough path for Green to try and stick around. Of the two final guys on this list one will make the practice squad to cover for injury, and it’s probably going to be Green.
Tom - Both Green and Fant are vying to supplant McKeon, but I really expect them to primarily be auditioning for a crack at a practice squad offer somewhere.
Princeton Fant #48
Mike - This is the jack-of-all trades player at its finest. The issue with Fant is he doesn’t do anything one thing particularly great, but just does a little bit of everything and does some of them well. But you have to wonder how this helps him get a practice squad position when nothing really stands out.