Cowboys Receive Bold Warning on Upcoming Tony Pollard Decision: ‘More Uncertainty’

Mike McCarthy

Getty Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy gives instruction during a practice.

The Dallas Cowboys are going to look different in 2023, and the fate of running back Tony Pollard is going to play a major factor in exactly how different Dallas will look.

Pollard has slowly built up his role with the Cowboys since joining the franchise in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL draft, culminating in a breakout season in 2022 in which he cracked the 1000-yard barrier and was the team’s leading rusher.

Pollard is set to be a free agent, and it would make sense for Dallas to bring back Pollard for 2023. But Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport has sent a clear warning ahead of the 2023 offseason: don’t overspend on Pollard by using the franchise tag.

“The Cowboys could shave $10.9 million off the 2023 cap by releasing [Ezekiel] Elliott with a post-June 1 designation,” Davenport writes. “But that would leave the Cowboys with that much more uncertainty in the backfield, and using the franchise tag on Pollard would wipe out that newly created wiggle room. There are ample reasons for the Cowboys to make a concerted effort to keep Pollard. But they need to do so in a way that doesn’t involve a $10 million cap hit in 2023.”

The Cowboys will be able to open up cap space if they feel the need to, but there’s only so much the team can afford with Pollard or any new contracts.

Ezekiel Elliot, Restructures and Opening Cap Space

Davenport mentions the post-June 1 release of Elliott as a space opener, and that is certainly a possible solution. It is not the only adjustment the Cowboys can make, but most of the moves would involve major decisions surrounding the team’s stars.

The Cowboys have already expressed an openness to extending and restructuring quarterback Dak Prescott’s contract, as the 29-year-old is set to receive a $31 million salary in 2023 according to Spotrac.

Or, as Heavy’s DJ Siddiqi recently covered, Dallas could release offensive tackle Tyron Smith, who is set for a $13.6 million salary this upcoming season. The Cowboys would take a $8 million dead cap loss for that decision, but it would certainly create more wiggle room.

On paper, restructuring Prescott and releasing Elliott and Smith could open upwards of $40 million in cap space. It would just require Dallas saying goodbye to two players who were vital over the past half-to-full decade.

Cowboys Could Offer New Long-Term Contract to Pollard

When looking at Spotrac’s market value projections, Davenport’s point about the franchise tag seems to ring true. The sports finance website projects Pollard at an average salary of $9 million per season, specifically a three-year deal worth a total of $27 million.

That’s a bit cheaper than the expected $10.1 million cost to franchise tag the RB, and Dallas could structure the contract to be back-loaded. Instead of paying Pollard the projected $9 million or more of that, the Cowboys could guarantee him more money in the following years.

But that in itself is a gamble, and Dallas has backed itself into a corner financially by throwing big money at players and then restructuring and back-loading deals. It’s why they’re in the position they’re in, and why re-signing Pollard isn’t just an easy decision.

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