The Dallas Cowboys have sixteen players who will officially hit free agency on March 13th. Of the sixteen, close to half were significant contributors in 2023, meaning the Cowboys have some difficult decisions ahead of them in the next month and a half.
Today, we start our free agent profile series taking a look at Dallas’ 16 impending free agents. We kick things off with a player coming off a rather disappointing season, running back Tony Pollard.
2023 Regular Season Stats: 17G, 252 Attempts, 1,005 Rushing Yards, 4.0 Y/A (career-low), 6 Rushing Touchdowns, 56 First Downs Rushing (career-high), 50% Rushing Success Rate
Year Review: Tony Pollard was among the few Cowboys players that underachieved in 2023. Coming off a fractured leg suffered in the Dallas’ playoff loss to the 49ers, Pollard got off to a slow start. The 26-year-old running back totaled 370 rushing yards over Dallas’ first six games, averaging just 3.85 Y/A and recording only two broken tackles. Pollard lacked the juice and explosiveness that made him so great in 2021 and 2022, and never really regained that form throughout the whole year.
In Dallas’ last eight regular season games, Pollard started to show some flashes of his old self. The running back recorded 29 first-down runs, 14 broken tackles, and scored four of his six rushing touchdowns. Still, it was clear that he was having a down season.
Free Agency Outlook: According to Spotrac, Pollard is projected to earn a two-year, $13M on the open market. Spotrac compares Pollard to two running backs, David Montgomery and Miles Sanders, who both signed multi-year deals (three-year, $18M/four-years, $25M) in 2022.
Pre-injury and 2023 season, Pollard might have demanded a deal worth more in average annual salary. Now, coming off a disappointing season, it’s hard to imagine a team investing a three- or four-year deal in a running back who may be more suited for a part-time role.
Still, plenty of running back needy teams have enough cap space that Pollard should earn a two-year deal, worth close to $6-7M annually.
Cowboys Verdict: As good as Pollard was during his time in Dallas, it’s very unlikely he will play another snap for the Cowboys. According to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News, Dallas plans to adopt a more “cost-conservative approach” at the running back position this spring.
A new age is here for how the Cowboys invest at running back. They are expected to adopt a more cost-conservative approach, which likely means selecting at least one running back in the April draft. https://t.co/tJthjZpJ0l— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) January 26, 2024
With all their other needs elsewhere on the roster, implementing this strategy and only paying $5-6M for two running backs combined makes lots of sense for the Cowboys. Dallas will likely bring back Rico Dowdle and sign a veteran running back in free agency for $2-3M to pair with him. Or they could go with Dowdle and a draft pick.
All in all, it would be shocking if Pollard is back in Dallas this fall.
Prediction: Tony Pollard signs a two-year, $16M deal with the Tennessee Titans.