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3 reasons why this will be Tony Pollard’s last year with the Cowboys

This could be the beginning of the end for Tony Pollard in Dallas.

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys and Tony Pollard were not able to work out a new contract before the franchise tag deadline on Monday, July 16th at 4 p.m. EST. This means that Pollard remains under contract for the 2023 season for the tag price of $10.1 million. It also means that all additional negotiations will cease until after the season, and unless the Cowboys tag him a second time, he will enter next offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

Does this not mean that Pollard’s time in Dallas is coming to an end? Not necessarily, but this is a step in that direction. Franchise tags are used for three reasons, and they are as follows:

  • Reason #1: It’s just a placeholder while the two sides work on a contract extension, used to keep a player from hitting free agency.
  • Reason #2: It’s used as a “prove it” season to determine if the team should commit long-term.
  • Reason #3: It’s used as a one-year rental to fill a need while the team looks for a new long-term solution.

We can now rule out Reason #1, and considering the team has likely seen enough to know what they have in Pollard. Reason #2 doesn’t make any sense either. That puts Reason #3 as the new frontrunner. The team just moved on from Ezekiel Elliott and it’s not clear if any of their other non-Pollard options will provide answers for the future. This creates a greater need to retain Pollard through the 2023 season.

While nothing is set in stone, it’s possible this could be the beginning of the end for Pollard and his time in Dallas. It’s not because they don’t like him or believe that he wouldn’t be a nice asset for this offense. It really comes down to these three reasons


Imagine buying a brand-new car with no payments for the first four years. It’s a new model, so there are no guarantees it performs how you want it to, but it’s brand new with no miles, so it should at the very least get you from point A to B. Now, imagine you like that car, all your stuff is in it, and the seats are adjusted just how you like them, but in order to keep it, it’s going to cost you a big chunk of change. You are given the option of moving on to another model of a new car or ponying up the cash and hanging on to the car you have grown accustomed to having.

In this analogy, this seems like an easy decision. Just get another new car. But in the NFL world, there are suckers out there who will pay big money to retain a player they love despite the overwhelming evidence that a car's performance starts to decline when the mileage gets up there.

The “running backs don’t matter” committee has done their homework. The results are compelling. Running back is a violent position that takes a toll on players and this has never been more evident than with Zeke. He was great when those legs were fresh, but the wear and tear of the NFL is hard to overcome.

Pro Football Reference

And it’s not just Zeke. This type of pattern can be seen all throughout the NFL.

Despite the overwhelming stats showing this being a losing proposition, teams still do it. Maybe they are hoping to buck the trend or maybe they somewhat expect it, but have the extra cash around to handle the cost. The Cowboys do not have this type of financial flexibility, which brings us to reason number two.


We all know that there are ways to manipulate the cap to get a deal done if you truly want to, so when we say can’t afford it, what we are really meaning is they want to allocate their resources elsewhere. The Cowboys have made some big contact decisions over the last couple of years as they moved on from Amari Cooper and Elliott, as well as letting some key free agents get away.

They also have some big contracts to get done in the near future as players like CeeDee Lamb, Micah Parsons, and Trevon Diggs will need new deals soon. Even Dak Prescott will need a new, and rather huge, contract extension to soften his yearly cap hit in the future. This is why the Cowboys’ front office has been prudent about where their cap resources have gone recently and why they will continue to be careful when handing out pricey deals. The Cowboys need the money to pay players at the more premium positions and can ill afford to overpay for a running back.


Rather than spending big money on a workhorse back, teams are taking a more responsible approach and supplementing their running game with multiple players handling the work. Teams will round out their depth chart with low-cost free agents and young players on a rookie deal. The Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs used a three-headed monster of Isiah Pacheco (183 touches), Jerick McKinnon (128), and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (88). This is the fad across the league as it keeps their runners fresh and uses receiving-specific backs more regularly.

When it comes to Pollard, he’s never been used as a workhorse running back. He was a backup at Memphis and has been the backup to Elliott during his time in Dallas. Nobody knows what additional work would mean and it would be risky to spend that type of money and expect those legs to still churn out over five yards a carry. Pairing Pollard with another runner in the backfield would be ideal and fall in line with how many teams are operating.

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