FRISCO, Texas — If you call it, Tony Pollard will haul it, but he'll have to do it under the franchise tag in 2023. There was always the possibility that would be the case, given the fact he signed his tag months ago, but all doubt was removed when he and the Dallas Cowboys failed to come to terms on a multi-year deal before the NFL deadline of 4 p.m. ET on July 17.
Pollard will earn a fully guaranteed sum of $10.1 million this coming season and re-enter free agency in 2024, barring a second franchise tag being applied in next offseason — one that would amount to roughly $12.1 million (120% of the 2023 sum).
The release of Ezekiel Elliott this offseason was the first step toward Pollard's coronation as RB1. The latter delivered his first-ever Pro Bowl season in 2022, en route to breaking the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his young career, earning him the aforementioned franchise tag in early March.
First things first, however, and that's making sure he's back to full health before things get underway in September, if not sooner — having suffered a broken leg in January.
"Right now, I'm feeling really good about where I am — a little bit ahead of schedule," said Pollard at the end of OTAs. "Being able to get out there for the walkthrough parts and to be out there with the team, get out there and get my feet wet. I'm not really limited at this point, it's just [about] being smart with it.
Just trying to work my way back in slowly and make sure I'm in tip-top shape so there's not a fall-off."
Pollard, 26, took reps with the first team in OTAs and in mandatory minicamp as he continues to work his way back onto the field, and it doesn't appear he's lost a step. If anything, as described by Pollard himself, he's gained one.
"Honestly, I feel faster," he said. "... I feel like I've got a lot of juice in me."
This all bodes very well for the former fourth-round pick as training camp gets underway in late July, and he sees no reason (barring a setback) that he won't be cleared fully by the time the team makes its way to Oxnard, and that also means he expects to take the start against the New York Giants on Sept. 10 in the regular season opener.
"I'll be ready," he said.
Likely so, but now without a long-term deal in his back pocket.