Cowboys Rumors: Tony Pollard Could Get Franchise Tag from DAL in NFL Free Agency

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 22, 2023

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 16: Tony Pollard #20 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Raymond James Stadium on January 16, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

If it means retaining Tony Pollard, the Dallas Cowboys might be willing to invest a lot of money in their backfield for the 2023 NFL season.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday the Cowboys would consider applying the franchise tag to Pollard in order to prevent him from leaving in free agency.

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

From <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLGameDay?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLGameDay</a>: The <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Cowboys?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Cowboys</a> want to keep RB Tony Pollard and the franchise tag is considered an option; As for the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/49ers?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#49ers</a>, a massive Nick Bosa extension is a priority for this offseason. <a href="https://t.co/gm2fNqmE8L">pic.twitter.com/gm2fNqmE8L</a>

The franchise tag would set Pollard's salary at a projected $10.1 million for next year.

Dallas already has Ezekiel Elliott signed for $16.7 million, so rostering both would be a costly endeavor.

Cutting Elliott could be an option when the moment comes.

Releasing or trading him before June 1 would carry an $11.9 million dead cap hit but save $4.9 million. Identifying him as a post-June 1 cut would spread his dead money hit across 2023 ($5.8 million) and 2024 ($6 million) while saving $10.9 million.

In the event both return to Dallas, it could create a delicate dynamic.

While he could once lay claim to being the best running back in the NFL, Elliott may not be the best running back on his own team anymore. The 2016 All-Pro ran for 876 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 3.8 yards per carry in 15 games during the regular season.

Pollard, meanwhile, led the Cowboys in rushing yards (1,007) and averaged over a full yard more per carry (5.2) than Elliott en route to his first Pro Bowl appearance.

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Last 40 carries for Tony and Zeke. <br><br>Pollard has taken over in Dallas ๐Ÿ‘€ <br><br>(h/t <a href="https://twitter.com/Ihartitz?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Ihartitz</a>) <a href="https://t.co/yrhCvGGkJ2">pic.twitter.com/yrhCvGGkJ2</a>

Rich Ohrnberger @ohrnberger

Even when gaining the exact same yardage on the exact same plays, the difference between Zeke and Pollard is striking. Feed 20.

As good as Pollard and Elliott have been together, the Cowboys might have to choose one or the other.

Per Spotrac, the team is already spending the fifth-most money ($17.6 million) on the running back position for 2023. Tagging Pollard would send Dallas to No. 1 on that list, well ahead of the Green Bay Packers ($23.4 million).

The Cowboys can avoid that scenario by signing Pollard to a multiyear contract paying him a lower salary. But the 25-year-old may not be all that keen to leave money on the table since his earning power could be at its apex this offseason.

If the franchise tag is the outcome for Pollard, then it could force Dallas to make some difficult decisions with an eye toward the salary cap.