Today we begin our 2023 Dallas Cowboys free agency profile series. We’ll take a look at 12 of the Cowboys’ top impending free agents and see if they have a good chance of returning to Dallas next season.
We kick off our series today by taking a look at Dallas’ most talented free agent, running back Tony Pollard.
2022 Stats: 16G, 193 rushing attempts, 1,007 rushing yards, 5.2 Y/A, 9 rush TDs, 39 receptions, 371 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs
Year Review: Going into the Divisional Round of the playoffs, things were going great for Cowboys’ running back Tony Pollard. Dallas finally unleashed the 25-year-old’s full potential on offense this season and it paid off in a big way.
Pollard totaled career highs in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, first-down runs, and receiving yards. He was selected for the Pro Bowl for the first time in his four-year NFL career.
The former fourth-round pick’s most impressive trait is his big-play ability, and it was on full display this season. Pollard recorded the fifth-most (35) explosive runs (10+ yards) in football and the third-most (19) D15+ runs (Designed Rushing Attempts over 15 yards). Pro Football Focus had Pollard ranked as their sixth-best running back in football, well ahead of guys like Derrick Henry and Saquon Barkley.
Overall, things were going about as well as they could for Pollard until the final game of the Cowboys’ season. Late in the second quarter versus the 49ers, Pollard got wrapped up from behind on a tackle and was injured on the play. It came out after the game that Pollard suffered a high ankle sprain and a fractured fibula, which will require surgery and likely a four-plus month recovery.
Tony Pollard suffered a high ankle sprain & a fractured fibula in Sunday’s loss, a person w/ knowledge of the injury said. A timetable won’t be determined until surgery is completed, but a four-month timeframe is reasonable.— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) January 23, 2023
Big blow for soon to be free agent.
After Mahomes yesterday another textbook high ankle sprain mechanism for Tony Pollard. This one appears worse, additional concern for fracture. Hip drop tackle again too - not always a “dirty” play but a technique with high risk of injury to ball carrier pic.twitter.com/1Tl78OFkPo— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) January 23, 2023
It’s lost in all the other bs, but feel absolutely horrible for Tony Pollard.— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) January 23, 2023
After barely getting opportunities until year three and four, Pollard proved to be one of the most explosive backs in the NFL in 2021 & 2022.
Now injury likely changing a ton about his free agency.
Free Agency Outlook: Pollard’s injury really complicates things when trying to predict how teams will value him in free agency. There are plenty of teams that have enough cap space to look past the late-season injury and believe he can get back to where he was prior, but some teams may think twice about paying a running back big money coming off a pretty serious injury.
Spotrac projects Pollard to earn a three-year, $27M contract on the open market, which would make him the eighth-highest-paid running back in football.
If the Cowboys do want to keep Pollard, their easiest way to do so would be to place the franchise tag on the running back for the 2023 season. Dallas would owe Pollard $10M (franchise tag number for RB 2023) this upcoming season if they did make this decision.
Final Verdict: Even with plenty of other holes to fill on their roster, it does not make much sense for Dallas to walk away from Tony Pollard this offseason. Pollard was so integral to Dallas’ offensive success last season and there is no way they would have accomplished what they did without him.
The Cowboys can free up some cap space by either restructuring Ezekiel Elliott’s deal or cutting ties with the veteran running back altogether, and that should free up enough money to bring Pollard back on the franchise tag.
Prediction: Cowboys franchise tag Tony Pollard for the 2023 season.