Tony Pollard is expected to receive the Cowboys franchise tag if no deal is done by the league deadline, a reality confirmed by Jerry Jones, as Dallas also works to keep Zeke onboard
INDIANAPOLIS — It appears the Dallas Cowboys are preparing to make their first paramount move in 2023 NFL free agency, and it's one many expected to happen. With the deadline to apply this year's franchise (or transition) tag to a looming in-house free agent speeding toward them — Tuesday, March 7 at 4 p.m. ET — all signs point to running back Tony Pollard as being the latest to receive the designation.
"I don't really want to say it's a done thing [yet] because as these things go, you don't know where you are until the deadline comes and goes [but] Tony is a big part of our plans," said owner and general manager Jerry Jones, speaking from the 2023 NFL Combine.
Jones made it very clear Pollard will be in a Cowboys uniform this coming season, be it on a long-term deal or, implicitly implied, on the tag, the latter amounting to a fully guaranteed, one-year sum of $10.1 million.
The tag would also buy the Cowboys until July 14 to negotiate a multi-year deal, effectively preventing Pollard from negotiating with other clubs in the process, though there is one caveat: it would have to be the exclusive franchise tag and not the non-exclusive one,
A non-exclusive tag would still permit negotiations with other clubs, but Pollard would be unable to leave outright without the Cowboys having an option of matching the highest offer and, if they chose not to, they'd receive two first-round picks from the other team.
So what of Ezekiel Elliott?
Jones went on to explain his plans to keep Elliott on board as well, but hinted that it might not be at the salary he's currently on track to earn. The two-time NFL rushing champ will hit the Cowboys salary cap for $16.7 million in 2023, but the front office has already opened the door to possibly negotiating a pay cut, a tidbit presented by Director of Player Personnel Stephen Jones recently that is now echoed by the Hall of Fame owner.
Both of the Joneses want to keep the tandem of Elliott and Pollard together, and feel it can be done, financially, and that doesn't necessarily mean Elliott's contract/salary will have a hatchet taken to it — Jones citing the decision to trade Amari Cooper as a reason the team will have more financial flexibility one year later.
Though, in the same breath, more or less confirming their may soon be a dialogue opened about it between the two sides.
"I could not feel better about the impact our decision on Cooper made last year, sitting here this year," said Jones. "And I don't think I have to explain to anybody that any dollar that we save on that salary this year, will impact us this year and the next year, and the next year. I don't think I've got to get into that conversation."
As it stands, only days away from the start of free agency and only weeks away from the 2023 NFL Draft, the Cowboys have no intentions on letting Pollard leave and are getting to work on trying to keep Elliott in the building — there still being at least a solid chance the Sledgehammer and the Sword are both in tow going forward.