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An argument to keep both Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas

The Cowboys offensive backfield has question marks with both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

With the unfortunate end to an otherwise successful season, the Cowboys, just like any other NFL team, are faced with tough decisions in the offseason. After back-to-back 12-win seasons, and back-to-back playoff appearances, the pressure is very high to continue that ascent, eventually raising that Lombardi Trophy and ending the long time Super Bowl drought. Although to many it may not seem like it, the franchise is trending in the right direction.

The last two seasons featured a loss in the Wild Card game, to winning the Wild Card game the following year and losing in the divisional round. By this small sample size, the next step up would be making it to the Conference Championship game in 2023, and winning the Super Bowl the following year in 2024. This potential four-year stretch, if this trend continues, would be considered a successful one. There are many teams across the NFL that rarely see the playoffs and would be stoked to have a potential run like this. The dream of winning it all isn’t all that far off for Dallas. A few tweaks here, and a few tweaks there, could make the difference in where this team goes as each year passes.

Making tweaks to the roster happens every single year, and between the salary cap, free agency, and the NFL Draft, the margin between winning it all and not really isn’t that far off. Having good fortune in these areas goes a long way as well. Just ask the Patriots about a certain sixth-round pick named Tom Brady. Now, getting a player like Brady in the sixth round is almost unheard of. However, piecing together a good draft and making savvy moves in free agency are where the chances at good fortune increase significantly. There are also a bevy of players who played for the team this past year that are now able to hit the open market, and take their talents elsewhere.

Keeping a particular duo together, would go a long way towards maintaining success if the dollars and cents are right

Knowing how the loss to the 49ers in the Divisional Round happened, there are plenty of questions that need to be answered with the offseason now in full effect for all but four teams. There is one area on this team that if handled properly, gives the Cowboys a very good shot at progressing towards that elusive Super Bowl trophy, and that is the backfield.

As everyone already knows, the backfield in 2022 featured a one-two punch of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. This duo has become one the best in the NFL today. Going off of the number of carries from each player during the regular season, it was essentially a 55-45 split with Ezekiel Elliott having the higher percentage of carries. Although Zeke had more opportunities during the year, Pollard had better overall production and was the more efficient player. Pollard would also tally his first 1,000 yard rushing season and would do it on an average of 5.2 yards per carry. Ezekiel Elliott came up just short of a 1,000 yards by a mere 124 yards, but with an average per carry of 3.8 yards, he would’ve needed another almost 33 carries throughout the season to join Pollard in that club.

As seen by the statistics, Pollard is the much more dynamic player, but that doesn’t mean Elliott is no longer useful. He can be useful if the price is right. With an average salary of $15 million per year, the production simply does not equal the compensation. Elliott has recently stated that he would be willing to take a pay cut in order to stay in Dallas, and to be frank, this pay cut needs to happen or Elliott will no longer be a Cowboy. To keep both players, Zeke will need to come down to maybe five to six million per season and kick the difference over to his backfield mate, Tony Pollard. Based on Pollard’s play, and how the running back market currently stands, a salary of between eight and ten million per year should keep him in Dallas.

Utilizing both players the right way will make the overall cost a mute point as their overall effectiveness should increase

Spending that type of money at running back could come with the proverbial eye rolls, and pundits questioning what the front office is doing. That is certainly fair, given how the position is valued. However, for being in the league as long as Pollard has, he has plenty of tread left on the tires. Ezekiel Elliott, on the other side of that equation, is a bit of a different story these days. However, if the Cowboys lean on Pollard for about 70% of the touches then Elliott can still be effective. Pollard should be the primary back on passing downs as well between the 20’s on the field. Inside the red zone and in short-yardage situations are areas where Ezekiel Elliott has shined and will continue to shine if you hand the majority of the carries to Tony Pollard.

Talk about unfortunate timing for a serious injury to occur...

Pollard currently is dealing with a high ankle sprain as well as a broken leg, but he should be back in the mix about three months from now. This injury news is obviously unfortunate for him as he is now on the open market. From a Cowboys front office perspective, it could bring the price down slightly enough to increase his chances of staying in Dallas a little bit longer. Keeping the dynamic duo of Pollard and Elliott together for a little bit longer would be good for all parties involved if the price is right. Sometimes the best way to inch closer to that Lombardi Trophy is by keeping it simple and keeping the core players around for continuity purposes.

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