A more under-the-radar situation the Cowboys will have to deal with in 2023 is how the tight-end situation shakes out.
Dallas has a choice to make with the five-year veteran. Schultz was franchise tagged in 2022, and doing so gave him a fully guaranteed one-year deal worth $10.9 million. Applying a second tag on him would cost the Cowboys even more money, jumping to $13 million.
This is a doubtful option, and it would not allow them to use it on running back Tony Pollard. The team will let Schultz walk in free agency or agree on a multi-year deal.
Let me tell you, though, if the Cowboys move on from Schultz, Dallas will be just fine.
My understanding is the Cowboys are unlikely to tag tight end Dalton Schultz again, after doing so in 2022.
In that scenario, the 26-year-old becomes one of the most sought-after free agents on the market
— Matt Verderame (@MattVerderame) February 22, 2023
I was a fan when they drafted Jake Ferguson in the fourth round in 2022.
The Wisconsin product is a heck of a run blocker. While he only produced 19 receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns, he wasn't asked to play every single down because of Schultz. He only played 40% of the offense's total snaps this past season.
Even Travis Kelce said he was excited about Ferguson. During an early-morning media session at the Chiefs' team hotel, Kelce was asked if any young tight ends reminded him of himself.
“I don't know if there are any that remind me of myself, but there are a few guys I'm excited about,” Kelce said. “Kyle Pitts (of the Atlanta Falcons) being one of them. (Jake) Ferguson down in Dallas and (Daniel) Bellinger over in New York. I'm excited to see how these guys manifest over the next few years and we'll see where they can take their game.”
Even being mentioned like that can build a player's confidence, and without starting his rookie season, he caught the eye of the best at his position right now.
Peyton Hendershot caught 11 of 16 targets for 103 yards and two touchdowns over 17 regular-season games in 2022. He also added a two-yard rushing TD on his only carry.
An undrafted rookie out of Indiana, he impressed in training camp and won the No. 3 spot on the tight end depth chart to begin the season.
Peyton Hendershot has a three-year, $2.6 million deal, while Ferguson has a four-year, $4.4 mil deal. For the duration of the pair's contracts, Dallas will pay only $7 mil to keep both on the roster.
That sounds a lot better than paying the amount of money Schultz wants. I like him, but the Cowboys are known for making mistakes and spending a lot of money on players who may be less than they are worth.
The money might become a bit tight this off-season, and it might be smart to let Schultz walk.
He is Dak Prescott's favorite target, but the team could get much more out of less with Ferguson and Hendershot with extended roles.
Leighton Vander Esch, Pollard, and then Schultz, in that order, are who I would sign if I were the Cowboys. The team will get much more production from LVE and Pollard than Schultz for the money they pay.
Time will tell, but I like what the Cowboys have in Ferguson and Hendershot if they let Schultz walk.
I'll take two over one, paying MUCH less to get around the same production any day of the week.