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Cowboys news: Future uncertain at RB as Tony Pollard set to play 2023 on tag

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NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys roster: No deal for running back Tony Pollard, will officially play season on franchise tag - RJ Ochoa, Blogging the Boys

Did the Cowboys learn their lesson from giving Ezekiel Elliott a big dollar contract?

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.

3 significant questions for the Cowboys at running back - Matt Germack, The Landry Hat

Deuce Vaughn may have a great story, but there’s no shortage of competition ahead of him in Malik Davis, Rico Dowdle, and Ronald Jones.

2. How does Deuce Vaughn contribute in year one?

Vaughn is one of the smallest backs in NFL history. He’s played against Big 12 defenses the last three seasons. Despite the excitement around the pick — which isn’t unwarranted — it’s unfair to expect anything resembling a key role for Deuce in 2023.

This being said, there’s plenty of ways he can immediately contribute. John Fassel has already said he wants to see Vaughn as a protector on punt and as a potential option as returner. Even if his offensive role is minute, we’ll likely see Vaughn on special teams in some capacity.

When thinking about a possible 2023 offensive role, think more along the lines of Lance Dunbar or Lucky Whitehead than a younger Pollard. Vaughn’s contribution will come as a gadget piece and a weapon outside the hashes in space. He’s best when his small and shifty frame can cause problems for a defense’s back seven.

Pollard burst onto the scene in 2019 as a true between-the-tackles runner. Vaughn very likely will not do the same. Those carries may come as the year progresses, but there are other backs more suited for that role while Vaughn acclimates to the NFL.

Cowboys Players Who Need Impressive Camp to Avoid Being Cut - Kristopher Knox, Bleacher Report

When he’s able to stay on the field, Lewis is a versatile defender, but his time in Dallas may be cut short.

CB Jourdan Lewis

Cornerback Jourdan Lewis would seem like a near-lock to make the roster, at least at first blush. He’s been a productive defender for Dallas, particularly in the slot, and he allowed an opposing passer rating of just 74.2 in coverage last season.

However, Lewis is also coming off a foot injury that limited him to only seven games in 2022. He’s entering the final year of his contract, and last year’s injury may have helped Dallas uncover Lewis’ replacement.

With Lewis sidelined, the Cowboys turned to then-rookie DaRon Bland. The 2022 fifth-round pick took over Lewis’ nickel role before moving to the perimeter later in the year to replace an injured Anthony Brown.

Bland fared well as a starter. He recorded seven passes defended, an impressive five interceptions and allowed an opposing passer rating of just 82.2 in coverage. The presence of Bland means that Lewis will have to prove that he’s healthy to have a shot at retaking his job. The 27-year-old is hopeful.

“I know by training camp I’ll be cutting and stuff like that,” Lewis said in June, per David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. “Just trying to see if it will be full speed.”

A team with championship aspirations can never have too many good cornerbacks, and Lewis can be a tremendous depth player if he returns to pre-injury form.

However, anything less than a strong and healthy camp will make Lewis a cut candidate. The Cowboys save $4.7 million in 2023 cap space by releasing him and also give Bland a clear path to playing time in the process.

Farniok and Biadasz fight for the Cowboys future starting center position - Reid Hanson, The Cowboys Wire

While Biadasz seems locked in to the starting center job, Farniok could have his name in the running at left guard.

Barring injury, Biadasz looks to anchor the offensive line for the Cowboys again in 2023. Aside from a handful of undrafted free agents, Dallas hasn’t brought in much competition for the 25-year-old Wisconsin product. But that doesn’t mean Biadasz’s future is secure.

While Biadasz has been fairly consistent and reliable throughout his time in Dallas, he hasn’t progressed as some might have hoped he would. Center play is admittedly difficult to grade because assignments and joint responsibilities can be tough to decipher, but generally speaking, Biadasz has been nothing better than average (PFF grades him well below average).

While just being an NFL starter should be seen as a wild success for a former Day 3 round pick, an average-to-below-average player isn’t necessarily someone who warrants a multi-year extension. Which is where Matt Farniok comes into play.

Farniok is the Cowboys super-utility interior lineman. He’s a coaching staff favorite who can play all three interior spots and should see a lot of preseason action in the coming weeks.

If Farniok can show he’s more than just a career reserve, he could ultimately push Biadasz out the door following this season.

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