With Blake Jarwin coming back from injury and Dalton Schultz having proven himself in his absence, the Dallas Cowboys can view their tight end position as an asset heading into the 2021 offseason. As we continue our Position Preview series, we'll discuss how reliable this TE group is and if Dallas needs to consider any moves to make it even stronger.
The Cowboys took a leap of faith by making Blake Jarwin their starting tight end for 2020, only to lose him in the 2nd Quarter of their first game. Little did we know at that point how much injuries would dominate the season, as Jarwin's became just one of many to send Dallas into an early-season spiral.
Dalton Schultz, after two invisible seasons on the roster, surprisingly stepped up with this opportunity. He finished 6th among NFL tight ends with 63 catches and 11th with his 615 yards. Those numbers would've been higher had Dak Prescott not been lost at quarterback.
With both Jarwin and Schultz under contract for 2021, the Cowboys are left in a solid position at tight end. Here's the complete outlook for the position based on contracts:
2021 Tight End Contract Statuses
- Cole Hikutini
- Blake Jarwin
- Sean McKeon
- Dalton Schultz
- Free Agents
- Blake Bell (U)
U = Unrestricted, R = Restricted, E = Exclusive Rights
There are really onto two decisions facing Dallas when it comes to the TE position. One is with veteran free agent Blake Bell; do they bring the 29-year-old back or do they turn the depth spots over to younger talent?
Bell was signed last year to provide experienced depth after winning a Super Bowl as Travis Kelce's backup in Kansas City. He ended up getting passed on the depth chart by Schultz and remaining in a bit role despite Jarwin's injury, but Bell still played on about 30% of the offensive snaps as a blocker and rare receiving target.
As Bell turns 30 in August, Dallas may choose to focus on developing some of their prospects. They've had Cole Hikutini on the practice squad the last two seasons and Sean McKeon joined in 2020 as an undrafted free agent. And of course, there will be a new crop of rookie talent and low-cost free agents available this offseason.
The other decision is about the top of the depth chart; should the Cowboys be content with Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz or should they try to get even stronger at tight end?
A very possible scenario for the Cowboys in 2021 is being on the clock with the 10th overall pick and having Florida TE Kyle Pitts available. The athletic 6'6″ receiving threat is drawing comparisons to the Raiders' Darren Waller, a Pro Bowler who helped plenty of folks win their fantasy leagues the last two seasons.
The chance to add a talent like Pitts at age 20 will be hard to pass up. It would put the Cowboys in the same position as 2020 when they had WR CeeDee Lamb fall in their laps and chose him over positions of greater need.
Sure, there's still hope that Blake Jarwin can be a breakout star in Dallas offense. But Pitts should be an immediate upgrade over Schultz in 2021 and give the Cowboys nice flexibility at the position for the next four seasons.
But with major concerns on the offensive line and on defense, not to mention having neither Dak Prescott or Andy Dalton under contract yet for 2021, Dallas may decide that drafting a tight end is a luxury they can't afford. If so, it will be because of their confidence in Jarwin and Schultz to handle things next season.
It's a reasonable assertion so long as the receiving trio of Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup are still around next year. Schultz benefitted from their presence in 2020 even with the QB and OL issues that rocked the offense.
Even if adding Kyle Pitts becomes a real option, the Cowboys can reasonably use that pick elsewhere and feel good about what their current tight ends might do in 2021. That's a nice place to be this offseason with so many other big issues at other positions.
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Other Cowboys 2021 Position Previews
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