The Cowboys placed the franchise tag Tuesday on tight end Dalton Schultz, a move that secures Schultz for next season and can serve as a placeholder while the two sides work toward a long-term extension.
A certain optimism surrounds these negotiations, which should lead to a multi-year contract by July 15. If they don’t, Smith will play the season on a one-year tag worth $10.9 million, the entirety of which counts toward that year’s salary cap. .
Schultz will no longer reach unrestricted free agency where a solid market, estimated at around $12 million a year, was expected to await him.
Tuesday’s decision is the final yardstick for his ascent.
In 2019, he was largely a forgotten man on the Cowboys offense, buried on the depth chart behind Jason Witten and Blake Jarwin. He had a catch for 6 yards in 16 games. That the predominant special team and situational blocker turned into a player deemed worthy of the tag is a testament to his patience and work ethic.
Eventually the opportunity found him.
Witten was not re-signed in 2020. Jarwin encountered a streak of injuries, first a non-contact ACL tear in the 2020 opener, then a hip injury that limited him in 2021 The latter led to surgery a few weeks ago which will sideline him for at least the start of next season.
Jarwin is a strong candidate for a release or a pay cut, sources said.
Over the past two regular seasons, Schultz has caught 141 passes for 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns. Dak Prescott had an immaculate 120.0 quarterback rating on throws aimed at him during that span.
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