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Tag, you’re it! How the Cowboys use of the franchise tag speaks to their late-round drafting success

They have a reputation for hitting on picks early in the draft, but the Cowboys do pretty well later on, too.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, the Dallas Cowboys placed the franchise tag on Tony Pollard, making official a move we all felt was coming and keeping one of their most explosive playmakers on the roster for at least another season. It was the sixth-consecutive offseason that the team utilized the franchise tag on a player, and those players include DeMarcus Lawrence (twice), Dak Prescott (twice), Dalton Schultz, and now Pollard.

Looking at that list provided the realization that the last three players they tagged were all fourth-round selections by the Cowboys. That’s quite the testament to some late-round drafting by Dallas to have so many players worth protecting. And they are worth protecting. Prescott is now the team’s franchise quarterback and is responsible for a total of 193 touchdowns so far in his career. After two quiet seasons, Schultz has emerged as a reliable target for his quarterback to the tune of 17 receiving touchdowns. And the playmaking Pollard has a total of 23 scores to his name by virtue of rushing, receiving, and one lone kickoff return touchdown.

The production the team has gotten from these fourth-rounders got us thinking, just how many Day 3 picks have all the other 31 NFL teams franchise-tagged over the last three seasons? The answer might surprise you.


Over the last three offseasons, a total of 24 players have received the franchise tag. Only three of those players have been selected outside the first three rounds of the draft, and all three were selected by the Cowboys. Check out the list.

Players franchise tagged in 2023:

Players franchise tagged in 2022:

Players franchised tagged in 2021:

The Cowboys have a reputation for drafting studs in the first round as nine of their last 12 first-round selections have earned All-Pro honors. That’s astonishing. But what’s not talked about as much is just how well they’ve done in the latter parts of the draft as well. Players like Tyler Biadasz (Pro Bowler), Donovan Wilson, Dorance Armstrong, DaRon Bland, Jake Ferguson, Damone Clark, Xavier Woods, and Cedrick Wilson Jr. are all players taken on Day 3 in the last six drafts who have been meaningful contributors to this team.

This team can find talent late. The Joneses would tell you that and it’s not just lip service as they are putting their money where their mouth is. In three-straight seasons, they have now used their lone allocated franchise tag to retain a player at a sizeable cost that consists of the average of the top five annual salaries from players at their respective positions. The team is willing to commit that much of a cap hit to ensure no other team can swoop in and offer them a huge long-term deal. That speaks to how important that player is to their team.

Every team has great players they want to protect, but not many have selected those players on Day 3 of the draft, at least not in recent years. The Cowboys appear to be the exception.

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