Dalton Schultz wants a new contract from the Dallas Cowboys, and he’s putting his foot (and his rear end) down until he gets it. That is at least the position he’s taken at the moment, the veteran tight end opting to sit out the remainder of voluntary OTAs as a sign of protest against the lack of progress in contract negotiations with the club. Having initially reported with the hopes of making headway on a new deal, all eyes now turn to mandatory minicamp — the operative word there being “mandatory”.
Should Schultz continue his absence to and through the Cowboys three-day minicamp, it could then more officially be deemed a holdout, but one that comes with penalties that escalate to nearly $100,000 in fines. For his part, head coach Mike McCarthy is unsure if his starting tight end will be in attendance when minicamp fires up on June 14, but views the recent frustrations as part of the business side of the NFL.
“Business is business,” McCarthy told media on Thursday, via the team’s official website. “And I’m in the business of winning football games. We all have contracts. We all have these types of situations that they come about.
“Timing obviously plays into these decisions and transactions. Now, as a head coach, it takes you a few years to get used to it, but I think you have to learn to separate things in this world. Dalton deserves this position that he’s in. So hopefully we can get it worked out.”
Schultz has already signed a franchise tag that guarantees he’ll be on the field for 2022 for a fully-guaranteed salary of $10.93 million and, as such, faces significant fines of $50,000 per day missed during training camp — should he choose to go that far — and much more if any potential holdout reaches into the regular season, where he would lose game checks from his current one-year deal.
The deadline to have a long-term deal completed is July 15, roughly 10 days before the start of training camp, making it difficult to fathom a training camp hiatus for anything other than principle, considering the deadline will have passed by that point and, again, that the tag has already been signed (and the reality of a 2020 collective bargaining agreement that basically put an end to such elongated holdouts for players under contract).
Echoing McCarthy’s hope is two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott, noting he’s spoken with Schultz about the ups-and-downs of NFL contract negotiation, having himself battled run-ins with the Cowboys franchise tag on two separate occasions before finally being awarded his latest deal in 2021.
“I realize that I went through the things that I went through, obviously not just in life but in football as well, to help others,” Prescott said on Tuesday, speaking from the team’s charity home run derby at Reliant Field (Schultz was not in attendance). “Just being able to talk to Dalton, maybe ease his mind through some of this and just understand that I went through this process. A lot of people go through this process.
“He’s a guy that I feel very comfortable with, have a lot of trust with. He knows that. The team knows that. So I’m confident in that situation. Me and Schultz talk all the time. So I knew what was happening, the team does, and as I said, we’ll handle it.”
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But until/unless it’s “handled,” Schultz has made it clear in his actions that he won’t be a happy camper.
The decision regarding minicamp has yet to be made, but Schultz is strongly considering it, sources tell CBS Sports. This will inherently increase the practice reps for up-and-coming talent Sean McKeon and rookie fourth-round pick Jake Ferguson, the latter having signed his rookie deal this week, two players in line to potentially supplant Schultz as early as the 2023 season. But, for Schultz, it’s about getting what he feel he’s due after a career-best season in 2021.
“My conversation with him was he was going to miss this week [of OTAS] and it was to focus on his business situation,” McCarthy added. “I’m not worried about his commitment or what he’s done. He’s in great shape. If he was standing here, he would tell you this is the strongest he’s ever been.
“He’s put a tremendous amount of work into the offseason. I think it’s clearly why I separate it. It’s business. It’s business that he’s tending to, and it’s understood.”