For the last two seasons, the Dallas Cowboys penciled in Blake Jarwin as the team’s starting tight end. And for the last two seasons, Jarwin went down with an injury, and Dalton Schultz stepped in to fill the void.
Now, Schultz is a free agent, and the fourth-round pick out of Stanford has turned himself into the most complete tight end on the market this off-season. He will have plenty of suitors looking for his services and, depending on what he wants, can find the spot that fits him best.
Here are the five best destinations for Dalton Schultz in the 2022 free-agent market.
Dalton Schultz can return to the Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones will reportedly welcome back his fourth-year tight end with open arms if that is what Dalton Schultz chooses to do. Why wouldn’t the Dallas Cowboys want him back?
In the last two seasons, Schultz has caught 141 balls for 1,423 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. He’s also been a good run blocker, especially compared to many WR Light tight ends that have come out of college in the last half-decade.
The pros of re-signing with Dallas are that Schultz knows his basic role in the offense and, if fellow free agent WR Michael Gallup leaves, his role could grow. Also, in the NFC East, Schultz knows he’ll have a better chance at the playoffs than in almost any other division in the NFL.
The cons of staying in Big D are that, while his role may increase, he’ll likely never be better than the fourth option behind CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and the Ezekiel Elliott/Tony Pollard duo. Also, the Cowboys are an estimated $21 million over the 2022 cap already. While they should still be able to keep Schultz with a bit of maneuvering, they likely won’t be able to offer the most money.
So, if Schultz does bolt for more targets, more money, to play for a different coach or with a different QB, or just for a change of scenery, here are the five best options.
5. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans don’t have much of a choice but to keep Ryan Tannehill at QB for at least one more year. That means all the organization can do is bring in more weapons to help get the best out of the mid-tier signal-caller.
The issue with Tennessee enticing Dalton Schultz is that they’ll have to appeal to his desire to win or the appeal of playing for 2021 NFL Coach of the Year Mike Vrabel. While the Titans’ salary cap isn’t as bad as the Cowboys, the team is $6.6 over the cap heading into the offseason, so they won’t be able to break the bank for the TE.
4. New York Jets
Dalton Schultz will likely have two opportunities to get a bag of money from a team that was bad in 2021 while also hitching his wagon to a young QB with a lot of potential. One of these opportunities will be with Zach Wilson and the New York Jets.
The Jets’ tight ends last season — Ryan Griffin and Tyler Kroft — were the team’s eighth- and ninth-leading pass-catchers. The duo combined for 43 catches for 434 yards and three TDs. That’s around half the production that Shultz provided alone in 2021. If the Jets are serious about developing Wilson, a TE weapon like Schultz will help that process a lot.
3. Indianapolis Colts
The argument for Dalton Schultz joining the Indianapolis Colts is similar to the logic behind joining the Titans, but with a bigger paycheck. The Colts have around $37 million in cap space this offseason and need to spend at least some of that cash on offense to help support QB Carson Wentz, as he’s the most likely opening day starter in 2022.
In addition to more money, head coach Frank Reich and the Colts can also offer more action for a TE than the Titans likely would. Jack Doyle and Mo Allie-Cox had decent years but aren’t as good as Schultz. The Dallas pass-catcher might also like what Reich did (as offensive coordinator) with Philadelphia Eagles TE Zach Ertz, the leading pass-catcher on the 2017 Super Bowl-winning squad.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
In a similar vein as the New York Jets move, Dalton Schultz could decide to buy a ticket on the Trevor Lawrence train and ride that wherever it goes. The Jacksonville Jaguars traded for Carolina Panthers TE Dan Arnold last year, but he disappointed with just 28 catches for 324 yards and no TDs.
The Jags can offer Schultz a ton of money and a chance not just to be the No. 1 TE but the No. 1 pass-catching target on the team. He’d also get to play for the other half of the coaching duo who made Zach Ertz a top tight end in new Jaguars head man Doug Pederson.
1. Los Angeles Chargers
The best landing spot for Dalton Schultz in the 2022 offseason if he chooses to leave the Dallas Cowboys is the LA Chargers. The Chargers have more cap space ($57.3 million) than the Jaguars or Jets, and they didn’t finish the season in the basement. The team was a timeout in overtime away from making the playoffs.
The Chargers can check all the boxes for Schultz. They can offer a big deal and make him a top target with WR Mike Williams possibly leaving in free agency himself. He’d also hook up with one of the most exciting young QBs in the game in Justin Herbert and an innovative offensive coordinator in Joe Lombardi. For these reasons, Schultz would look good next year in powder blue and gold.