Dalton Schultz is the Missing Piece to New York Jets Offense

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On Sunday, the New York Jets beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 26-21 behind one of the team’s best offensive performances of the season. New York amassed 273 yards rushing on the ground thanks to big days from Michael Carter (118 yards), Tevin Coleman (57 yards), and rookie quarterback Zach Wilson (91 yards and a touchdown). Yet, something was missing. Seemingly all season long, the tight end position has been underwhelming, when it should be playing a big role in the Jets offense. Luckily, with the 2022 off-season quickly approaching, New York can take care of that need for years to come by signing Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz.

Dalton Schultz is the Missing Piece to New York Jets Offense

Who is Dalton Schultz?

At this point, everyone knows about the Cowboys weapons on offense. Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard are out of the backfield with Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Cedrick Wilson at receiver. In spite of all this talent, Dalton Schultz has managed to continue to grow as a player in 2021. In 15 games (14 starts), Shultz has caught 69 passes for 733 yards and six touchdowns. Schultz also has career-highs in 75.8% catch and yards per target with 8.1. While these are all career marks for the tight end, last year was the real breakout season for Schultz.

Last season, Schultz found himself starting as Jason Witten retired and Blake Jarwin was injured, taking full advantage of the opportunity. In 16 games (14 starts), Schultz finally got the chance to display his receiving skills, finishing the year with four touchdowns on 63 catches, totaling 615 yards. Prior to 2020, Schultz was primarily used as a special teams player and blocker on offense. Now, the former 2018 fourth-round pick from Stanford is in line for a big payday this off-season.

How Schultz fits into Jets Offense

The New York Jets first-year offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur spent his previous four seasons as the San Francisco 49ers passing game coordinator. His goal has always been to use the run game to set up the play-action pass game. Using 12 personnel packages, which require two tight ends, Sunday’s game was the latest example of how effective the offense can be if the two ideologies of the offense are functioning. Except the Jets lack that true vertical receiving threat at tight end. The Jacksonville game was only the latest example of a game that a receiving threat at tight end would have been helpful. After all, if the Jets had a Dalton Schultz-type player, Conor McDermott probably wouldn’t have been the one to make the go-ahead touchdown grab.

In San Francisco, the 49ers offense has been at its best when it has that playmaking tight end roaming over the middle of the field. Given the Jets cannot get George Kittle, the closest thing they can come to him is Dalton Schultz. In Dallas, Schultz has played more run snaps (582) than passing (313), and grades eighth in run blocking at the position according to Pro Football Focus. Lastly, Schultz will give Wilson that big tight end he needs in the red zone, where all six of his touchdowns catches have come in 2021.

Jets Tight End Woes

Moreover, this season, the Jets tight end play has been average on a good day. A group featuring Tyler Kroft, Ryan Griffin, and Trevon Wesco may be capable blockers, but none are threatening receivers. This season, the three have combined for 45 receptions for 464 yards and three touchdowns. New York desperately needs a player like Schultz, who can be the team’s best blocking and receiving tight end in order to let LaFleur’s offense soar.

Jets Free Agency Approach

As things stand, the Jets are projected to enter free agency with just over $52 million in cap space, ranking eighth among NFL teams. That could change, as potential cap casualties Shaq Lawson, Sheldon Rankins, Greg Van Roten, and Ryan Griffin could save another $20 million. Either way, the Jets will need to be prepared to make Schultz among the highest-paid tight ends in the NFL.

Last year, the top two tight ends on the market, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, received multi-year deals with an average annual value of $12.5 million. As things stand for 2022, their deals only rank behind George Kittle ($15MAAV), Travis Kelce ($14.3MAAV), Dallas Goedert ($14.25MAAV), and Mark Andrews ($14MAAV). In other words, expect Schultz’s demand not only to be high but for his market to quickly take shape.

Chances are, the Cowboys are going to have a difficult time retaining Schultz. Dallas is going to be tight in cap space and needs to also consider re-signing numerous starters and key contributors on top of Schultz. Plus, the Cowboys also have another effective tight end in Blake Jarwin who will make $6.25 million in 2022, and to-be third-year player Sean McKeon under contract. Simply put, Schultz will likely find himself playing elsewhere in 2022, and it should be with the Jets.

Dalton Schultz is Top Free Agent Target

According to Spotrac, Schultz’s deal could be along the lines of four years and north of $12-million. It would place him right behind the game’s elites, and the Jets can certainly afford it. To add a to-be 26-year-old tight end who may be entering his prime to Wilson’s arsenal would be a massive addition to the Jets offense. New York would finally get their do-it-all number one tight end, and when combined with a healthy Elijah Moore and Michael Carter, give their young quarterback the stable group of weapons the organization has struggled to do over the past few years.

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