Dallas Cowboys star running back Tony Pollard sustained an ankle injury against the San Francisco 49ers just before halftime and had to be helped off the field. Pollard would not have played again this postseason if the Cowboys advanced as the running back sustained a fractured fibula and a high ankle sprain with a potential return timeline estimated at four months, per Dallas Morning News’ David Moore.
“Tony Pollard suffered a high ankle sprain & a fractured fibula in Sunday’s loss, a person w/ knowledge of the injury said,” Moore tweeted on January 22, 2023. “A timetable won’t be determined until surgery is completed, but a four-month timeframe is reasonable. Big blow for soon to be free agent.”
It is unfortunate timing for a player set to land a massive raise in free agency. Pollard needed to be assisted to the sideline tent where trainers evaluated the star running back. Minutes later, Pollard was carted off into the locker room with an air cast over his left leg and a towel covering his head.
To make matters worse for Dallas, Dak Prescott threw his second interception of the day on the play after Pollard exited the game, but this pick was inside the red zone costing the Cowboys a potential scoring opportunity.
“Cowboys RB Tony Pollard is walking off the sideline with assistance,” Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken tweeted on January 22. “Would seem an indicator that he avoided fracture, but it will be Ezekiel Elliott and rookie Malik Davis at running back for at least the time being.”
Could the Cowboys Cut Zeke to Keep Pollard?
Questions surround the future of the Cowboys running backs with Pollard set to hit free agency this offseason. Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott’s $90 million contract runs through 2026, and Pollard is expected to have no shortage of suitors coming off his first Pro Bowl campaign. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell suggested that the Cowboys could release Elliott in favor of re-signing Pollard to a long-term deal.
“In May, I argued the evidence from last season suggested the Cowboys should move Pollard into the primary role ahead of Ezekiel Elliott,” Barnwell wrote on January 19. “This was controversial at the time and seems obvious now, which is a product of how impressive he has been during a breakout 2022 campaign.
“…Dallas’ salary-cap decisions from last offseason make it clear they’ll cut Elliott this offseason to create cap space. Using that room to re-sign Pollard would hardly be a surprise, but he should see a strong market in free agency. Second running back deals rarely work out, but his modest workloads in Dallas and receiving ability make his closest comp Austin Ekeler, who turned out to be a bargain. It would be a surprise if Pollard’s new deal came south of $10 million per season.”
Cowboys Willing to Use Franchise Tag on Pollard: Report
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Cowboys are willing to use the franchise tag on Pollard if the team is unable to sign the Pro Bowler to a long-term deal. Dallas used a similar strategy with tight end Dalton Schultz last offseason, and the move would keep Pollard away from free agency until 2024.
“From @NFLGameDay: The Cowboys want to keep RB Tony Pollard and the franchise tag is considered an option,” Rapoport detailed on January 22.
Retaining Pollard does not necessarily mean the Cowboys will release Elliott this offseason. Dallas would have to take an $11.8 million dead cap hit if the team cuts Elliott.
The veteran could agree to restructure his current contract, a move that would benefit both sides. Elliott is unlikely to command anything close to the $10.9 million salary he is slated to have in 2023 if the former Pro Bowler were to become a free agent after a potential release.