The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could go big for Rob Gronkowski’s replacement.
As the Buccaneers seek Gronkowski’s replacement following the announcement of his retirement on Tuesday, June 21, Tampa Bay could look elsewhere for options. Greg Auman of The Athletic compiled a list of the top tight end replacements for Gronkowski and Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz was one of the names mentioned.
Schultz is currently embroiled in a contract dispute with the Cowboys after he was placed with a $10.9 million franchise tag. The 26-year-old tight end sat out to the final set of voluntary offseason team activities due to his ongoing contract discussions with Dallas.
Auman mentions Schultz as a “swing-for-the-fences” option for the Buccaneers and would obviously represent the most viable replacement for Gronkowski.
“This is the swing-for-the-fences answer to losing Gronkowski,” says Auman.
“It would likely take a mid-round pick to pry Schultz away from Dallas — remember, they let receiver Amari Cooper go to the Browns for a fourth-rounder and a late-round pick swap,” Auman continues. “For the Bucs to make it work cap-wise, they’d have to sign Schultz to an extension to lower his cap number. Spotrac gave him a market value of four years, $50 million this spring, so it would be another major commitment for a cap-strapped Bucs front office.”
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Schultz Quickly Emerging as a Top Receiving Weapon
Schultz is one of the top receiving tight ends in the league. The former fourth-round draft selection broke out with a career-high 78 receptions, 808 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. In fact, Schultz ranked third among all tight ends in receptions, sixth in targets and receiving yards and fifth in touchdowns.
Since emerging as the Cowboys’ starting tight end in 2020, he has been the definition of Dak Prescott’s safety valve. In other words, he could be exactly what Tom Brady is looking for as Tampa Bay enters the 2022 season without Antonio Brown and potentially Chris Godwin (Godwin is recovering from an ACL injury).
Schultz averaged 10.4 yards per reception last season and had 43 first-down receptions. With the exception of Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce, no other tight end posted more than Schultz’s number of first-down receptions.
Schultz (78.1 offensive grade) essentially matched Gronkowski in offensive grade (79.5 grade) last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Acquiring Schultz would mean the Buccaneers are going “all-in” to replace their five-time Pro Bowl tight end.
“Schultz was PFF’s No. 6 tight end last year, one spot ahead of Gronkowski,” says Auman. “So if Tampa Bay values having a top-tier tight end and is set on going all-in this year, acquiring Schultz would represent a less-drastic dropoff than they’d have with the free-agent options.”
Cowboys Not Likely to Trade Schultz
It isn’t so far-fetched to think the Buccaneers would make a move for Schultz. If trading a third-round draft pick ensures Tampa Bay acquires an elite tight end that can match up with the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and the San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle, they’ll pull off such a move in what could be Brady’s last season.
The bigger question mark is whether or not the Cowboys would be willing to part ways with their most reliable receiving weapon, especially with CeeDee Lamb as the only proven healthy receiver on the roster entering the season. Michael Gallup is still recovering from an ACL injury and James Washington and Jalen Tolbert will likely begin the 2022 season as the Cowboys’ No. 2 and No. 3 receivers.
With the Cowboys entering the season expecting to compete for a Super Bowl, this dream trade scenario is an unlikely one for the Buccaneers.