In just a couple of years, Dallas Cowboys’ running back Tony Pollard has gone from being a scrappy backup to the team’s most dangerous weapon out of the backfield. The 2019 fourth-round draft pick became Dallas’ primary rusher in most people’s eyes during the ‘22 campaign. The Cowboys would like to keep Pollard around long term, but for now, they’ve slapped the franchise tag on the Pro Bowler, which will cost them just over $10 million next season.
Jerry Jones and his front office will have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal with Pollard, or he’ll play on the tag in ‘23. While Pollard didn’t get as many carries as Ezekiel Elliot last year, he did eclipse him in rushing yards going for 1,007 on the season. Elliott rushed for a career-low 876 yards and only missed two games.
What about Zeke?
With a long-term deal seemingly in the works for Pollard, questions about Elliott’s future in Big D become more serious by the day. At a price tag of $16 million against the salary cap, It would be nearly impossible for Dallas to keep Zeke and ink Pollard to a big money deal. Adding to Elliott’s apparent decline, this likely means his days in Frisco are numbered.
“I want to be here,” Elliott said after the divisional round loss to the San Francisco 49ers. “I don’t have a crystal ball; I can’t tell you the future. But I definitely want to be here.”
The only way to keep both without inflicting too much damage on the cap would be for Zeke to accept a pay cut — which he’s reportedly willing to do. Jones could always draft another back, but we know he can be loyal to a fault. Elliott is one of the players Jones seems to love, so it will be hard talking him into cutting the former first-round selection.
This wouldn’t be an issue for most teams, and based on Elliott’s fall from grace, he’d already be in the free-agent pool. Luckily for him, Jerry Jones doesn’t operate like other owners. Sometimes he holds on too long with certain players, and Zeke is one of them. Now that the Cowboys can move off Elliott without much penalty, they need to push forward. He had a few great years, but it’s over.
Running backs don’t usually bounce back after they fall off. Elliott will be 28 in July and might never rush for 1,000 yards again. If he’s willing to take less money, Jones could take him up on that offer, but then there will likely be an obligation for Mike McCarthy to play him as much as possible. All that does is hold Pollard back or stunt the growth of any rusher they draft/sign to fill out the backfield. Jerry Jones has some tough decisions to make very soon.