The Dallas Cowboys have had quite the offseason to this point, and with training camp starting next week (!) it is at long last finally almost over. We have seen a number of developments to the team’s roster over the last few months what with the trades for Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks, the draft headlined by Mazi Smith, and of course the return of a handful of important players who hit free agency like Leighton Vander Esch and Donovan Wilson.
Within all of that was another move that the Cowboys made in this year’s utilization of the franchise tag. Dallas chose to tag running back Tony Pollard at a value of just north of $10M for the 2023 season. The team would go on to release fellow running back Ezekiel Elliott and save about that much, effectively swapping one in for the other in a financial sense.
Part of what is distinct about Pollard’s financial situation is that he is on the tag which only promises a contract for the 2023 season. Pollard signed his tag back in late March and is obviously well-aware of that, but he and the team had until today (July 17th) to work out a long-term deal.
That did not happen.
Dallas Cowboys RB Tony Pollard will officially play the 2023 season on the franchise tag
Today marked the deadline for players who received the franchise tag to land long-term deals with their respective teams. With that not happening, we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Pollard will play the 2023 season on the tag at a value right around $10M.
Pollard is coming off of a career year with the Cowboys where he totaled over 1,400 yards from scrimmage and had 12 touchdowns. Unfortunately he suffered a fractured fibula in the season-ending loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round. While the Cowboys have expressed optimism about his return happening sooner rather than later, it is certainly wise of them to be cautious about handing out a lot of money in this situation.
What’s more is that the Cowboys are sort of the poster team for how to not handle the finances of the running back position in this current era of football. While Ezekiel Elliott was a wonderful player for the team, the contract that they gave him in 2019 contradicted team-building philosophies that we see across the league in that they devoted serious financial resources to the running back position. The contract became so untenable that Elliott was released by the team this offseason.
For what it is worth Pollard was one of three running backs to have the franchise tag placed on them this season with Josh Jacobs (Las Vegas Raiders) and Saquon Barkley (New York Giants) the others. Neither Jacobs nor Barkley reached long-term deals with their teams, although unlikely Pollard neither of them have signed their tag to this point. There had previously been some chatter on the internet that Barkley could miss Week 1 as a way to prove a point to the Giants, Dallas visits New York in the opener, but with no way to reach a long-term deal now those may be empty words.
Perhaps the Cowboys are fine with getting one more year out of Pollard and seeing what happens after it is all said and done. For what it is worth, they are unable to negotiate any sort of long-term deal now until next offseason if they choose to do so, a situation that it appears all parties are comfortable with.