One of the few positive stories of 2020 for the Cowboys, Tight End Dalton Schultz took advantage of an unexpected opportunity and put in a very productive season. With his rookie contract expiring after this year, could Dallas look to trade Schultz sometime in the next few months?
Blake Jarwin was all set to be the starter in 2020, finally getting his chance after dealing with Jason Witten's return from retirement and farewell tour the year before. But an ACL injury in Week One brought a quick end to Jarwin's opportunity while creating one for Schultz.
Despite the injuries at quarterback and offensive line last year, Schultz still posted 63 catches for 615 yards and four touchdowns in 2020. He finished tied for fifth among all NFL tight ends in receptions, 11th in yards, and tied for 16th in scores.
Of all the tight ends to have 60+ catches last year, Dalton had the fewest number of targets with just 89 passes his thrown his way. Most of the others had over 100 targets during the season, which speaks to the efficiency that Schultz had in the offense.
Part of that efficiency came from having Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb all out there demanding attention from the defense. But while that certainly helped Dalton to shine, he still managed to produce very well even with all those receivers putting up their own big numbers.
Going into 2021 we don't really know what to expect from Schultz and Blake Jarwin as the top-two TEs in Dallas. Will it be an open competition? Will Jarwin return as the starter or will he now have to fight to get the job back from Dalton?
One factor that can't be ignored is the contract situation for both players. Jarwin is signed through 2023 on the deal he signed just before last season. That four-year, $22 million contract was hardly massive but enough money to suggest that the Cowboys saw him as their starter for the next several years.
Dalton Schultz was a 4th-Round draft pick in 2018 and is entering the final year of his rookie deal. Unless the Cowboys re-sign him then he will become an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
If Jarwin returns and is clearly the player Dallas thought he'd be a year ago, could that push them to try to move Schultz in a trade now before potentially losing him in free agency.
No, not every NFL team has receivers as good as the Cowboys' to help distract the defense. But most of them should have a better QB situation than Dallas did after Week 5 of last year, not to mention a solvent offensive line. There are many teams who might see Schultz as an upgrade at tight end.
I doubt anything would happen until after training camp and preseason. After all, we need to how Jarwin looks and see if he can make it through July and August fully healthy. Dalton is a great insurance policy against any lingering issues for Blake.
You also never know how injuries on other teams could change the trade market. All it takes is one of the other 31 starters in the NFL going down for someone to suddenly be very interested in Schultz.
And again, maybe the Cowboys' starting job is now Dalton's to lose. If he's now considered the better player than Dallas would almost certainly keep him, then likely cut Jarwin next offseason and work on re-signing Schultz to a new deal.
The TE situation is easily the most intriguing for the entire Dallas Cowboys offense going into camp. We were very excited to see what Blake Jarwin could do in 2020, disappointed to see him go down, but then delighted to see how Dalton Schultz stepped up in his absence.
Will his strong performance last year keep Schultz as the starter in Dallas? Or could it end up being why the Cowboys trade him for a quality draft pick or some other needed asset before the deadline?