Tony Pollard is likely the best running back on the Dallas Cowboys roster. However, with four touches in the playoff loss against the 49ers, is he valuable on the bench for another year?
Pollard is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2023 and should make a starting running back salary on the open market. The reality is that Pollard will most likely not be a Cowboy two seasons from now, so what should Dallas do with him?
The Cowboys should entertain the idea of trading Pollard
The idea of trading Pollard is not an indictment of the Dallas running back. Pollard’s efficiency in 2021 was among the best in the league, as proven by:
- Yards per attempt: 5.5 (T-2nd)
- Yards after contact per attempt: 3.61 (5th)
- Breakaway percentage: 31.0% (9th)
- Receiving yards per route run: 2.01 (4th)
- PFF rushing grade: 90.3 (2nd)
(the parenthesis indicate the league-wide ranking)
Pollard is one of the most dynamic running backs in the NFL, and he doesn't carry the same wear-and-tear that most free agent running backs have experienced. In short, he is a perfect asset to have in the backfield.
This is why Jerry Jones needs to at least entertain the idea of trading Pollard. Because, as excellent as Pollard is, he isn’t getting enough opportunities in Dallas to justify keeping him.
By every efficiency metric listed above, Pollard is listed inside the top ten and yet he got the 41st most rushing attempts in 2021. His snap count of 157 snaps last season is less than Rhamondre Stevenson, Jamaal Williams, Darrel Williams, and Devontae Booker. There are eleven second-string running backs that received more attempts than Pollard in 2021.
So, we know two things for certain a.) Tony Pollard is one of the most elusive and efficient running backs in the NFL and b.) he is being improperly used in Dallas. Both of those factors suggest that his value to another team is higher than his value to the Cowboys.
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For trading Pollard to be a realistic possibility, Jerry Jones would need to have an honest conversation with Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore about their plans with the running back room. If both coaches are committed to Ezekiel Elliott for the upcoming season and don't expect to deviate from the 2021 game plan, Pollard should be on a different team for most of 2022.
Obviously, if Moore and McCarthy expect to use Pollard as the instrumental piece that every Cowboys fan knows he can be, this is a moot point. If Dallas would properly use the dynamic skill-set Pollard brings to the table, he would be one of the most valuable players the Cowboys have. However, given we have three years of evidence this won’t happen, why would next year be any different?
Let’s assume for the sake of this argument that Pollard is going to be improperly utilized (likely) and Jerry Jones is entertaining the idea of trading him (unlikely), what would his value be?
Keep in mind that, despite being one of the most elusive backs in the league, he only has a year left on his contract. Thus, any team that wants to trade for him would have to commit to paying him in a year. With that being said, it is likely he would go for somewhere around a fourth-round pick.
This brings us to a larger issue; timing. Pollard’s value could potentially reach somewhere in the third round (unlikely but possible) if the Cowboys trade him at the right time: early in the 2022 season.
There will inevitably be a contending team like the Bengals, Titans, Rams, or Cardinals that lose a running back early in the season or during training camp and want to stay competitive. That is when Pollard would reach his maximum value and Dallas should ship him out.
Pollard is a borderline elite running back, but if the Cowboys continue to misuse him, there is no point in keeping him another year just to lose him in free agency. There are needs on this team larger than a running back who averages 7.6 touches a game.
Unfortunately, Jerry won’t let this happen
Jerry has adopted a player-acquisition strategy similar to the Packers and Steelers, where he likes to develop his own prospects and keep them until they leave for greener pastures. This is why the Cowboys are rarely active in free agency or the trade market, and almost never trade away their own players.
Think about the amount of Dallas players that have walked in free agency over the past few years, despite Jerry knowing he wasn't going to be able to afford them on the open market. The Cowboys’ secondary was decimated in consecutive seasons because Jerry wanted to hold onto his “home-grown” guys in Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie until they both walked in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
So, while it is reasonable that players like Tony Pollard, Blake Jarwin, and several others should be traded so their value can be maximized, it won’t happen.
Pollard is a great athlete, he seems to get along with Elliott, and he is incredibly fun to watch. Unfortunately, Dallas has misused his skill-set since he entered the building and it will inevitably continue in 2022.
The time has come to trade him, but this will likely not happen. So, make that money in 2023 free agency Pollard, you deserve it.
Should the Cowboys entertain the idea of trading Tony Pollard this offseason?
This poll is closed