FRISCO, Texas – July 17 has come and gone, the deadline for Cowboys' franchised running back Tony Pollard and the team to agree on a long-term deal.
The "else" to me should have been incentive enough for the 26-year-old rusher to have somehow, someway worked out a long-term deal, like a three-year one the Cowboys likely were offering him that he did not accept.
So now this: Pollard, who earned just $3.187 million during the fourth-round pick's first four years in the NFL with the Cowboys, will more than triple those earnings with the $10.091 million guaranteed franchised salary. That's a good.
But what happens after that should be like walking on thin ice.
First, what if Pollard suffers a serious, season-ending injury, more serious than the one the Cowboys covered him with this offseason despite the playoff-ending leg/ankle one he suffered this past January? What if he enters free agency in 2024 unable to walk into a team facility without assistance for an interview? Does he and his agent understand what that will do to his market value, no matter what kind of season he has this year?
Does he understand what the market value is for a 27-year-old running back when it comes to negotiating a long-term deal?
Does he understand the aging running back market value is unlike most any other position in the NFL? Teams do not trust and maybe should not trust aging running backs, and history proves most running backs start hitting the wall at age 28. Ezekiel Elliott might be the poster player for that.
Sure, there are exceptions, the Emmitt Smiths of the world, the NFL's all-time leading rusher compiling four straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons from age 28-31. But for the most part, teams are mighty scared of 29-and-older running backs. Why do you think the Tennessee Titans are afraid to extend going-on-30 running back Derrick Henry, now entering the final year of his contract with a $16.36 million cap hit for 2023, despite Henry rushing for 1,538 and 13 touchdowns in 2022?
Can remember former Cowboys scouting director Gil Brandt telling me how the team decided with the second pick in the 1975 NFL Draft, after Atlanta selected quarterback Steve Bartkowski with the first pick, who to choose between the next two guys on its board: defensive tackle Randy White or running back Walter Payton. And Dallas needed a running back after Calvin Hill bolted for the WFL.
Brandt said the Cowboys did a study comparing the longevity of running backs vs. defensive tackles and came to the conclusion that gambling on a defensive tackle was a better bet. Right or wrong, but back nearly 50 years ago the Cowboys came to the same conclusion that teams are now on running back longevity.
Furthermore, Pollard and agent Kennard McGuire should have taken into account what is currently taking place with the running back market, where none of the three franchised running backs, Pollard, the Giants' Saquan Barkley nor Raiders' Josh Jacobs, has been signed to long-term deals. In fact, Barkley is threatening a holdout since unlike Pollard, he never signed his franchise tender.
Like, what about possibly signing a three-year, $25 million deal, with more than half guaranteed, and for sure making with a signing bonus more than the $10.091 million he will make this season?
One of those bird-in-hand deals Prescott ignored that nearly bit him in the backside had his 2020 franchised season-ending injury been more serious than it was.
Because now Pollard is gambling on himself, meaning gambling on producing another Pro Bowl season, gambling on his health and gambling on a running back market currently in recession to potentially average more than the $10 million he's earning this year over a long-term deal.
Good guy, Pollard. Best of luck to him taking this shot.
· Money, Money, Money: Et tu, Zack? If reports are true, this would be no coincidence that perennial All-Pro guard Zack Martin and CAA Sports agency are asking for a raise and extension entering the sixth of the seven-year, $93.4 million extension he signed in 2018. Why, just this past week in an NFL.com draft of current NFL players in the 2023 draft order, Martin was selected with the third pick in the second round, so considered the 35th best player in the NFL. Not bad for a guard, but one who has been selected to the Pro Bowl in eight of his nine seasons and an All-Pro six times. And then, just now, Martin cracked the Madden 99 for the first time, ranking 99th. The Cowboys already have restructured his 2023 base salary, paying him right at $12 million of his $13.5 million up front in a restructure signing bonus. Only one current guard in the NFL has a more lucrative financial package than Martin's six-year, $84 million extension, that being the Colts' Chris Lindstrom, who just signed a five-year, $102.5 million deal with $42 million guaranteed. Maybe this has something to do with Martin spending his time during the OTAs and minicamp working with the trainers rehabbing what he called "a little something," a subtle nudge toward negotiating an extension.
· More Madden: By the way, here is how unique Martin's inclusion on Madden 99 really is. No guard has ever been selected into the Madden 99 since one Larry Allen was included in 2003. One Micah Parsons received a 97 rating in the Madden 99, and the only two other defensive ends higher were Nick Bosa and Myles Garrett with 98 ratings. And those two are fulltime defensive ends.
· More Rankings: This dead period in the NFL is a time for lists, and NFL.com came up with one re-selecting the 2021 NFL Draft. And at No. 1 was, yep, you guessed it, Micah Parsons, decidedly more valuable than Trevor Lawrence, Penei Sewell and Ja'Marr Chase. Sounds about right. Because since entering the league in 2021, Parsons ranks in the top six league-wide according to Next Gen States in sacks (26.5, sixth), QB hits (56, fourth), tackles for loss (33, fourth) and pressures (129, fifth).
· BTW: Oh, and going back to NFL.com's draft of current NFL players, the one Zack went 35th to San Francisco, Dak Prescott went ninth to Carolina – all QBs selected ahead of him – Parsons went 15th to the Packers and CeeDee Lamb 49th to Washington. At No. 27, the Cowboys were given wide receiver Stephon Diggs.
And for this week's final word, we go to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, quoted in my season preview piece in the Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine 2023 Training Camp Preview (dallascowboys.com/star) when talking about why he thinks this 2023 edition of the Cowboys can improve over the past two 12-5 regular seasons.
"I think the things that got us to the back-to-back seasons (of 12-5) are the things that dictated my thinking as to the offseason moves that we've made," Jones said. "And make no mistake about it, we've done some good things these last two years, but there are things that we can significantly do better."