© Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Dalton Schultz is now virtually guaranteed to remain in a Dallas Cowboys uniform for the 2022 season. After much deliberation by the Dallas Cowboys front office on who would be the recipient of this year's franchise (or transition) tag -- the other worthy player being defensive end Randy Gregory -- the decision has been made, and the franchise tag has been applied to Schultz; sources tell CBS Sports. 

The two sides will have until mid-July to negotiate a long-term deal but, absent one, he'll be forced to play under a tag in 2022 that will pay him a projected $10.83 million, fully guaranteed. It's a bargain for the Cowboys, all things considered, and it stops the bleeding at a position that now has doubt on the future of Blake Jarwin (who underwent hip surgery that threatens to keep him off of the field until 2023).

They love what they have in Sean McKeon, a talented upstart, but he's not yet developed to the point where they view him as a viable option to replace Schultz at TE1 in 2022. The club had formal meetings with TE prospects at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis (e.g., Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar), but tagging Schultz won't preclude them from potentially selecting one in April, or adding a couple in the undrafted free agency to follow. 

Schultz is coming off of a career-best season that saw him haul in 808 receiving yards (10.4 per catch) and eight touchdowns.

A tight end who can make plays will forever be at a premium in the NFL, and Schultz has taken full advantage of his time at Tight End University with All-Pro playmaker George Kittle, and his added reps in the wake of injuries to Jarwin that began in 2020, but he's also suffered a very real tailspin in his run blocking abilities, something he was drafted for coming out of Stanford as the Cowboys fourth-round pick in 2018. It's been a weird trajectory that's seen Schultz become a great pass-catcher -- some errant drops notwithstanding -- at the sacrifice of his blocking, and that's likely one reason he's not yet ascended to Pro Bowl status.

That said, NFL teams have been known to overlook blocking issues when you're catching first downs and touchdowns, and Schultz most certainly brings both of those to the table for the Cowboys. And with Schultz now secured, they'll have to turn their attention to bigger headlines regarding the future of Amari Cooper and DeMarcus Lawrence, while still negotiating with Gregory and wide receiver Michael Gallup, among a list of other in-house talent such as Cedrick Wilson, ahead of a pivotal season in Dallas.