Cowboys use franchise tag on RB Tony Pollard

FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys have returned their franchise tag to Tony Pollard, the team announced Monday.

The 2023 franchise tender is worth $10.09 million, which will immediately count against the Cowboys’ salary cap whether or not he signs the tender immediately. The deadline for teams to use their franchise tag is Tuesday at 4:00 PM ET.

The Cowboys want to sign Pollard to a multiyear deal and met with his agent at last week’s scouting combine. If they couldn’t come to an agreement by July 15, Pollard would have to play out the season on the tag.

A fourth-round draft pick in 2019, Pollard had a breakout season in 2022 and earned a Pro Bowl honor after passing for 1,000 yards (1,007) for the first time in his career, though he underwent surgery to repair a sprained ankle in the playoffs. The San Francisco 49ers left him out of the Pro Bowl Games festivities.

Pollard, who has the makings of a dual-threat running back, is expected to be 100 percent by the start of training camp. Combine owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the injury will not affect the team’s intentions to sign a contract.

The decision on Pollard could affect Ezekiel Elliott, who is scheduled to make $10.9 million in 2023 and earn $16.72 million. The Cowboys could approach Elliott in a significant salary cap deal or save $4.8 million upon his release. If they mark him as a postseason 1 cut, the Cowboys will save $10.9 million against the cap, but Elliott will count about $6 million against the 2024 cap.

Despite Elliott starting 14 of the 15 games he played in, the guard changed at running back in 2022. Pollard also had career highs in carries (193) and touchdowns (12), while his 5.94 yards per touch was the highest among NFL running backs with his 150 carries. Christian McCaffrey finished second with 5.71 yards. Elliott rushed for 876 yards and missed two games with a knee injury, but had 12 rushing touchdowns.

In 2019, Elliott signed a six-year, $90 million extension with $50 million guaranteed. This is the first year he will not be paid contractually guaranteed money. If the Cowboys decide to move on from Elliott, they have Malik Davis on their roster but will look to add another running back in the draft or free agency.

Although he’s known for his speed, Pollard also showed ability after contact, leading the league with 3.82 yards after first down. Pollard averaged 5.22 yards per carry in 2022, third best among running backs.

Don’t worry about too much work for Pollard. In four seasons, he has 510 carries for 2,616 yards and 121 receptions for 1,008 yards. Elliott had 564 carries in the first two years of his career.

This is the sixth straight year the Cowboys have used a franchise tag, starting with DeMarcus Lawrence in 2018. They used him again in 2019 in Lawrence, but agreed to a five-year deal until July.

Dak Prescott played under the tag in 2020 and was tagged again in 2021 before agreeing to a four-year, $160 million deal. Last year, Dalton Schultz earned $10.9 million.

With Pollard under the tag in 2023, Schultz will hit the open market and earn a higher contract than the Cowboys are willing to pay. The Cowboys also used the tag on Flozell Adams (2002), Ken Hamlin (2008), Anthony Spencer (2012, 2013) and Dez Bryant (2015). The team was able to secure long-term deals with Hamlin and Bryant.

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