The Dallas Cowboys could move on from one of their key players this offseason.
The Cowboys’ biggest offseason priority will be re-signing Pro Bowl running back Tony Pollard. Despite suffering a serious fractured fibula injury in the team’s playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, bringing back Pollard is a major priority.
However, there is the possibility that Pollard simply walks and signs with another team in free agency. According to ESPN’s Field Yates, he believes Dallas won’t be able to re-sign the 25-year-old running back.
“No,” Yates said on if the Cowboys will re-sign Pollard. “The Cowboys have a major running back investment in Ezekiel Elliott, and retaining Pollard wouldn’t be cheap. He’ll have a robust free agent market after finishing with 1,378 scrimmage yards (19th in the NFL). Teams will monitor his recovery from a fractured left fibula suffered in the Cowboys’ divisional-round loss.”
Tony Pollard is Cowboys’ Biggest Playmaker on Offense
After playing a secondary role to Ezekiel Elliott during his first few seasons in the league, Pollard finally emerged as the Cowboys’ best running back. Although Elliott continued to be the workhorse in the backfield — 231 carries to 193 carries — it was Pollard who was the far more efficient back.
Pollard averaged 5.2 yards per carry and 5.9 yards per touch this season. Those averages were far better than Elliott, who averaged just 3.8 yards per carry and 3.9 yards per touch this season. Pollard ranked seventh in the league in yards per carry.
According to Spotrac, Pollard’s projected contract value is $9 million per year for a total of $27 million across three seasons. That would rank Pollard as the eighth-highest paid running back in the league.
Ezekiel Elliott’s Contract is an Issue
Elliott — whose production continues to decline — is due to be paid as the second-highest paid back in the league for the 2023 season. The 27-year-old veteran is due for a $10.9 million base salary and $16.7 million cap hit for next season.
It’s already a given that if Dallas is to re-sign Pollard — they also have another key free agent in tight end Dalton Schultz — they have to restructure Elliott’s contract. Elliott already opened up on his desire to return to Dallas following the team’s 19-12 loss to San Francisco.
“I’ve definitely thought about it,” said Elliott. “I want to be here. I don’t have a crystal ball; I can’t tell you the future. But I definitely want to be here.”
Michael Gehlken of The Dallas Morning News reported on Monday, January 23, that Elliott is willing to take a pay cut to continue his career with the Cowboys.
“The running back is willing to accept a pay cut this offseason, recognizing that a reduced salary can better fit him into the franchise’s plans, a person familiar with Elliott’s thinking told The Dallas Morning News on Monday afternoon,” said Gehlken. “He is currently scheduled to earn a $10.9 million salary in 2023.”
If Elliott restructures his contract, the Cowboys have a chance at re-signing Pollard. However, it’s not a certainty given Pollard could very well earn a bigger contract with another team.
It’ll be an interesting offseason for the Cowboys, but the idea of Pollard leaving for a bigger opportunity — and paycheck — is certainly on the table.