Dalton Schultz will skip final Cowboys OTAs, tired of contract impasse

K.D. Drummond
Cowboys Wire

Almost three months have passed since the Dallas Cowboys slapped the franchise tag on tight end Dalton Schultz. With just 45 days remaining before the cutoff for negotiations, Schultz is doing what he can to send a signal to the organization he isn’t happy with his contract situation.

A breakout season on the heels of securing the top rung on the depth chart in training camp led to this, and all signs indicate Schultz will be at least that important, if not more important, during the 2022 campaign. But Schultz apparently feels the team isn’t showing him enough love and isn’t stepping up to the plate in negotiating a long-term deal.

As such, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network is reporting Schultz is going to sit out the voluntary portion of the offseason.

The Cowboys have already completed two of three OTA sessions, with Schultz present. This week’s session precedes the mandatory minicamp next week, which Schultz will have to attend or will be fined.

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The fines would ramp up for each of the three days, going from $14,775 for skipping the first day, $29,550 for the second and $44,325 for the third. A player who skips all three days could be fined $88,650.

Schultz cannot be fined or punished for missing OTAs.

The Cowboys’ move to secure their top tight end for a fifth season following the expiration of his rookie deal could be viewed through two lenses. On one hand, it pays Schultz handsomely at $10.93 million. That’s more than he made over the previous four seasons combined, as a former fourth-round selection. Even with performance bonuses added for his third and fourth years he totaled just over $4.4 million since being drafted in 2018.

Dalton Schultz has career highs in receptions (78), yards (808) and touchdowns (8) in 2021.

On the other hand, the tag allows the team to retain control over Schultz without requiring a good-faith effort to reach a long-term agreement which would give Schultz a level of financial security that could change his family’s forever future.

Schultz was one of three NFL tight ends tagged this spring. Cleveland’s David Njoku and Miami’s Mike Gesicki were also slapped with the well-compensated restriction that kept them from entering free agency. Recently, Njoku signed a four-year, $56 million deal with $28 million guaranteed. That sets the floor for Schultz, who has outperformed Njoku over their respective rookie contracts.

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Schultz was tied for second on the Cowboys in targets last year with 104. He trailed team-leader CeeDee Lamb by just one reception, 79-78, and was tied for team lead in receiving touchdowns with eight. His 808 receiving yards ranked third.

League-wide, he ranked fourth in defense-adjusted yards above replacement, gaining 190 more yards than the average tight end would’ve placed in the exact same game scenarios he was. Pro Football Focus gave him a 78.2 overall grade, good for sixth at his position.

Currently Schultz and Gesicki are tied for eighth-highest average salary for 2022 at the position, as the franchise tag is an average of the top salaries at each position.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones is well known for liking to take negotiations down to the wire. They do not have much experience behind him after former TE1 Blake Jarwin was released following a devastating hip injury that would keep him out for the year. Sean McKeon is entering his third season and the club drafted Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson in the fourth round this season.

The team could perhaps be looking to avoid a long-term agreement with Schultz knowing they have hefty salaries to dole out to players such as Trevon Diggs and CeeDee Lamb in the near future.