FRISCO, Texas – Dalton Schultz will be hanging around for a while, after all.
The Cowboys placed the franchise tag on Schultz on Tuesday, guaranteeing him a one-year salary of $10.8 million this year and preventing him from hitting free agency when the new league year begins on March 16.
This would have to be considered a bit of an upset, as Schultz's strong run of play – not to mention the Cowboys' salary cap concerns – seemed to make it a foregone conclusion that the four-year veteran would be testing the open market this spring.
Injury concerns might've changed the Cowboys' calculations. The club signed Blake Jarwin to a four-year, $22 million extension back in 2020, but Jarwin underwent a significant hip surgery this offseason after missing a significant chunk of the last two years. With Jarwin's availability in doubt, keeping Schultz in the fold became an even bigger priority for a position without much in the way of depth.
Schultz, of course, deserves plenty of credit in his own right as one of the Cowboys' better draft success stories in recent years.
Originally drafted No. 137 overall out of Stanford back in 2018, Schultz had managed just seven starts and 13 catches through his first two seasons with the team. Heading into his third training camp, there was plenty of speculation that he might not even make the final roster.
Not only did he make the roster, he excelled. And when Jarwin was lost for the 2020 season with a torn ACL in Week 1, Schultz stepped into that void to the tune of 63 catches for 615 yards and four touchdowns. He followed that up by improving all of his numbers – 78 catches for 808 yards and eight touchdowns – in 2021.
The franchise tag is a one-year contract, but it also provides time for the two sides to further negotiate. The league's deadline for franchise tag negotiations is in mid-July, giving the Cowboys four months to work on a long-term deal that would not only keep Schultz around for a while, but lower his all-important cap number.
Speaking of the salary cap, tagging Schultz will give the Cowboys some additional work to do. The club was roughly $20 million over the cap heading into the offseason, as speculation continues to swirl around big-money veterans like Amari Cooper and DeMarcus Lawrence.
Schultz's number will add roughly $11 million to that total – though it is important to note that there's still time to figure that out. NFL teams don't have to be below the salary cap until the beginning of the new league year – i.e., March 16 at 3 p.m. That leaves the Cowboys with another week to make whatever financial decisions they deem necessary.
All of that remains unclear for the time being. What's clear right now is that Dalton Schultz factors into the plan for 2022.