Pollard is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, although the Cowboys have a variety of routes to keep him with a star on the side of his helmet. They could ink him to a new deal, which could make him their long-term option at running back.
But if negotiations with Pollard on a multiyear deal hit a stalemate, they could decide to use the franchise tag, which would give the Pro Bowl back a fully guaranteed salary of $10.09 million for next season.
Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones said it’s more than likely they’ll use the tag before the March 7 deadline — although he danced around the idea of using it on Pollard.
“It’s not out of the question but we certainly haven’t determined whether we’ll do that or not,” Jones said. “More than likely we’ll use our tag. Not necessarily on Tony but we’ll use our tag.”
The Cowboys are expected to meet with Pollard’s reps at the combine this week.
Cowboys Undecided on Running Back Plans
Pollard is coming off a Pro Bowl year, rushing for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns. He also added 39 receptions for 371 yards and three more scores. However, Pollard suffered a broken leg and high ankle sprain during the Cowboys’ 19-12 loss in the postseason to the San Francisco 49ers.
The talk around Ezekiel Elliott’s future has been well documented, with the three-time Pro Bowler and former rushing leader likely needing to massively restructure his contract to stick around. He will account for a cap hit of $16.7 million next season but the Cowboys could cut him as a post-June 1 designation to lower that number to $5.82 million.
“Those are things that we’ll have to obviously work through as we move forward,” Stephen Jones said. “We haven’t finalized any decisions yet in terms of what that room’s going to look like. But Zeke’s a tremendous competitor, a guy, just a great teammate, a great competitor and a guy that, obviously he’s making a lot of money. He knows that. Obviously, Tony Pollard’s up for free agency. So that’s a challenge. We’ll work through that.”
Elliott’s marks of 3.8 yards per carry and 58.4 yards per game were the worst of his career. He also delivered a dud when his team needed him most after Pollard went down in the Divisional Round loss to the 49ers. Elliott managed 26 yards on 10 carries in the loss and was the centerpiece of a very embarrassing final play.
Cowboys Could Potentially Draft Running Back
The Cowboys could decide to insert a new face into the mix through the draft, with Texas RB Bijan Robinson being frequently mentioned as a potential target. The Cowboys have the No. 26 overall pick and there’s a chance Robinson could still be on the board.
Jones addressed the possibility of taking a running back with their top pick, although the standard for that selection will be very high.
“If you’re taking a player in the top half [of the first round of the draft], you’re hoping you got a player that’s going to be here 10 years,” Jones said. “And it’s tough for running backs to last 10 years. There’s not as many Emmitt Smiths or guys that play that long.”
The Cowboys selected Elliott with the No. 4 overall pick in 2016. Pollard with a fourth-round pick in 2019. Outside from Elliott, the last time the Cowboys used a first-round pick on a running back was in 2008 when they selected Felix Jones, who started just 23 games over five seasons, collecting a total of 2,728 rushing yards over that span.