Dalton Schultz and Tony Pollard are both free agents in a Cowboys offseason that could define the future of the franchise.
They say everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes pressure, expectations, and gridiron standards. That’s why the Dallas Cowboys‘ loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional Round felt huge. And to be fair, it was historic. This was Dallas’s league-record 12th straight playoff appearance without reaching the conference championship game.
It stings even more when you realize the Cowboys have the fourth-highest total cap in all of football, with a tall task ahead this offseason.
The defense was elite all year. Their offense, though inconsistent, had enough firepower with Dak Prescott at QB, Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard in the backfield, and CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz as primary catch-passers. There’s no reason Mike McCarthy’s squad couldn’t get the job done against a third-string rookie QB taken with the final pick in the 2022 draft.
Amari Cooper would’ve helped. Odell Beckham Jr. could’ve, too. But would either have been a difference-maker in breaking that historic drought? At this rate, Super Bowl aspirations have become more like wishful thinking in the Big D, but the silver lining in all this is that they sure know how to find young talent.
Let’s take a look at the Cowboys’ 2023 offseason priorities with $5.28 million to use before exceeding the cap.
Notable Free Agents
Tony Pollard: The 25-year-old back outran RB1 Ezekiel Elliot by 131 yards despite carrying the ball 38 fewer times on a $965,000 salary. He’ll be coveted, whether it’s Dallas or elsewhere — provided he’s healthy. Pollard suffered a broken leg and high ankle sprain on Sunday, and Ian Rapaport says his recovery is expected to take three months.. He could garner something in the neighborhood of a three-year deal worth $23,392,563 this offseason, which would rank 11th among NFL running backs by total value.
Dalton Schultz: Cowboys owners Jerry Jones said he expects the tight end to be a Cowboy long-term. After CeeDee Lamb, he was Dak’s primary option in the pass game. He played on a $10.9 million franchise tag which the ‘Boys can double down on for $11.3 million, but that’d only prolong things. The market projects Schultz’s worth to be that of the second-highest-paid TE in the NFL at four years, $60 million.
Donovan Wilson: The Cowboys selected the safety out of Texas A&M with the No. 213 pick in the 2019 draft and he delivered on a low-end $965,000 salary. He led the Cowboys in total tackles with 115, and contributed to an elite safety trio that helped reshape Dallas’s defense.
Cooper Rush: Remember this guy? The ‘Boys went 6-3 with him under center amid Dak’s absence and the backup QB has become more important than ever with 69 different QBs starting a game this season – the most in NFL history.
All of these players were drafted by the Cowboys.
CB Trevon Diggs: Jerry Jones called the 2020 No. 51 overall pick a difference maker, leading the NFL in interceptions (11), yards off interceptions (142), and pick-sixes (two) during a breakout 2021 season. That gave him his first All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection at 26 years old — at a bargain nonetheless. If they don’t extend him, then he’ll become a free agent with a potential payday in the area of four years, $55 million.
WR CeeDee Lamb: Lamb became the No. 1 guy when Cooper left and he exploded in the second half of the season. Now, he’s eligible for an extension either this year or next, with a fifth-year option on the table as well. He played on a salary worth $2.5 million, which could skyrocket to the $22 million average range — or four years and $85,598,288.
For those who were unsure, both were drafted by the Cowboys.
It’s going to be a long offseason of reflection for the Cowboys’ front office. Who are they? What type of team do they want to be? Defense is their clear identity and they should double down on that. On offense, Schultz and Pollard should absolutely be priorities. They’re young and they’re good. But Dallas is going to need something more than just those two if it wants to escape the stigma of mediocrity.
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