Tony Pollard released after contract dispute leaving fans heartbroken’..

Tony Pollard released after contract dispute leaving fans heartbroken’..

It isn’t clear whether the Cowboys will be able to reach agreement on a long-term contract with running back Tony Pollard, but they won’t be letting him leave this offseason.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Friday that Dallas plans to use its franchise tag on Pollard if the two sides can’t complete a deal by Tuesday’s deadline, keeping him off the open market.

MORE: Franchise tag tracker: Latest news on Lamar Jackson & others who could receive it

In case there was any doubt, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Friday that Pollard “certainly . . . is a big part” of the franchise’s plans.

Re-signing Pollard before Tuesday’s deadline would allow the Cowboys to explore using the franchise tag on tight end Dalton Schultz, but there isn’t any indication a long-term deal is imminent.

Here’s what you need to know about what the tag would cost the Cowboys.

Tony Pollard franchise tag value

The franchise tag salary for running backs in 2023 is $10.1 million. Eight running backs make at least $12 million annually, so the tag wouldn’t put Pollard in the upper echelon of pay at the position, but it would be a hefty increase from his rookie contract.

The value of the franchise tag varies by position. If the Cowboys re-signed Pollard and chose to use the tag on Schultz, the tight end would be in line to make $11.3 million in 2023. Running backs make less on the franchise tag than all other non-specialist positions.

MORE: NFL franchise tags, explained: Updated position values, deadlines & rules to know for 2024

Considering Pollard has been one of the NFL’s most efficient running backs since he entered the league and looked a step ahead of Ezekiel Elliott in 2022, a $10.1 million salary would be a small price for Dallas to pay.

Tony Pollard contract

Pollard signed a four-year, $3.2 million rookie contract with the Cowboys after he was drafted in 2019. He carried a cap hit of $1.1 million in 2022, with a base salary of $965,000 and a signing bonus of $167,000.

Whether Pollard agrees to a new long-term deal or earns $10.1 million from the franchise tag, he’s due for a massive raise in 2023.

Pollard will have until mid-July to work out a long-term contract with the Cowboys if the tag is placed on him. If the sides still can’t work out a deal by then, then Pollard would have to play under the one-year tag in 2023.

The Houston Texans could be big players in free agency, and one position they could address is running back. There could be a lot of big names on the open market this year, and Pro Football Focus picked Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard as an ideal for the Texans in 2024.

“Pollard still delivered a strong 83.9 PFF rushing grade (10th) and 1,005 rushing yards (12th),” PFF’s Jonathon Macri wrote. “… Pollard did have slightly better rushing metrics than [Devin] Singletary in 2023 and could be considered an upgrade for an ascending offense looking to add to their arsenal. The Texans are currently slated to lose about 60% of the team’s running back carries in free agency, which is a great number for Pollard to absorb as he looks to recoup some fantasy value.”

Whether or not this comes to pass relies entirely on three things: the Texans’ interest in retaining Singletary, the Cowboys’ interest in retaining Pollard and if Texans want to pay a running back big money. Any one of those factors could derail this idea, but it’s still an intriguing option for Houston.

DeMeco Ryans addressed the need to improve the running game during his post-2023 press conference. The team finished in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns behind Singletary and Dameon Pierce.

However, the cure might just be better run-blocking up front rather than an entirely new rushing attack. The Texans will surely make some personnel changes in 2024 if they want to repeat as AFC South champions and progress further in the playoffs. Houston is expected to have the third-most salary cap space this offseason but a plethora of impending free agents as well.

Spotrac valued Pollard at $6.5 million per year, which would be a relatively low risk given his ceiling as a dual-threat running back. But is he worth that?

Pollard rushed for 1,000 rushing yards for the second consecutive season, but his yards per carry dropped dramatically when he became the Cowboys’ featured running back. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry in 2022 on only 193 carries, but averaged 4.0 yards per carry in 2023 on 252 carries. Pollard also scored half as many touchdowns this past season (six) than he did the previous year (12).

There are a few enticing running back options in free agency, including Pollard. Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Derrick Henry could all hit the open market this season and all would be upgrades over Singletary and Pierce. The biggest question will be how Texans general manager Nick Caserio values the position and how important the running game will be in 2024.

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