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Mailbag: Who Should the Cowboys Franchise Tag?


With the franchise tag deadline coming tomorrow, is there any player you feel the Cowboys should tag? At one time, Tony Pollard seemed the obvious answer, but given that he'll be coming off a significant injury, that now seems a bit risky. – Shawn Johnson/Los Angeles, CA

Patrik: For me, tagging Pollard remains the most obvious and justifiable choice. For starters, not all season-ending injuries are created equal, contextually speaking. Pollard suffered a broken leg, not a torn ACL, Achilles tear or any one of the other more severe soft-tissue or ligament issues that would cause you to pause when assessing his future potential. A broken leg is nothing to fret over, seeing as it's already on the mend and he'll be ready to get back on the field by this summer, if not sooner. And as far as the tag goes, it's not much — $10.1 million ($800,000 less than what Dalton Schultz was paid on the 2022 tag, $10 million less than a linebacker tag, $4 million less than a safety tag, etc.). I'd be more than willing to use that tag as hopefully a placeholder to allow until July 14 to negotiate a long-term deal. If the latter isn't achieved, then he'd play under the tag, be forced to prove he can replicate his breakout season and talks can be reignited in 2024. And/or you can try your hand at replicating your _own _success (i.e., finding a really good RB in the later rounds of the draft, as the team did with Pollard, a former fourth-round pick).

Kurt: While all signs seem to be pointing toward Pollard receiving the franchise tag, Stephen Jones did say from the NFL Scouting Combine last week that, "More than likely we'll use our tag. Not necessarily on Tony, but we'll use our tag." So perhaps it's not cemented in stone. And there are a couple of big reasons to second-guess tagging Pollard. One is simply the position he plays. Head coach Mike McCarthy said, "I want to run the damn ball," but consider that over his 13 years with Green Bay, he had nine different leading rushers, and maybe the best of that bunch, Ryan Grant, was originally an undrafted free agent. Running backs are more interchangeable in today's game, so spending big money on one seems questionable. And then there's the injury. In addition to the fractured fibula, reports said Pollard underwent surgery to repair high-ankle sprain ligament damage as well, so the Cowboys better be sure he's going to be the same player before slapping the franchise tag on him. But if not Pollard, then who? Dalton Schultz is a favorite target of Dak Prescott, but his second franchise tag would cost more than $13 million and Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot are already on board. Though a key part of the defense, tagging Leighton Vander Esch would bring a payment of nearly $21 million. Ouch. And while Donovan Wilson is coming off a career year, would they dish out $14 million plus when Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker and Israel Mukuamu are in place? Or given that Kearse and Hooker both have only one year left on their contracts, maybe tagging Wilson and working out a long-term deal with him is actually the better choice. Regardless, seeing what the Cowboys do is going to be interesting, and it's a decision they indeed need to get right.

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