Cowboys next move should be obvious after Tony Pollard franchise tag

In today’s not-so-breaking news, the Dallas Cowboys placed a franchise tag on Tony Pollard for 2023, an expected move that should send another running back packing.

The Dallas Cowboys have been saying it for weeks now: Tony Pollard will play under the franchise tag for the 2023 season.

Pollard officially received the franchise tag on Monday and will stay in Dallas with a $10.1 million cap hit.

Having secured their breakout running back for at least next season, the Cowboys’ second move is staring them right in the face: release running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Elliott currently has a $16.7 million cap hit in 2023, and even if Dallas does a maximum restructure of Elliott’s contract, he would still count roughly $10 million against the cap. Are the Cowboys really going to roster a $20 million running back duo? Jerry Jones might want to find a way to make it work, but sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one.

Dallas would save a good chunk of money (around $10 million) by designating Elliott as a post-June 1 cut or potentially trading him to a willing suitor.

Cowboys prioritize Tony Pollard over Zeke and Dalton Schultz

Elliott’s six-year, $90 million extension that he signed back in 2019 has not aged well, and the Cowboys can’t justify holding onto such an expensive player at one of the most affordable positions in football.

The duo formed quite the one-two punch on the ground in Dallas last season, yet Pollard leapt ahead as the more efficient ball-carrier with Elliott lagging behind, recording a career-low 3.8 yards per carry.

Pollard suffered a serious injury in the NFC Divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, and if he doesn’t make a successful recovery the Cowboys may regret wasting a boatload of cash and the tag on him.

Then again, Dallas probably weren’t planning on extending Pollard having learned its lesson from over-investing in Elliott four years ago. The franchise tag was the most sensible way for the Cowboys to keep a young and high-upside skill player, and the team will just have to come to terms with Elliott’s impending exit.

As for Dalton Schultz, who was franchise-tagged last year, the Cowboys tight end will hit free agency later this offseason and will have a line of suitors out the door. In Schultz’s absence, 2022 fourth-rounder Jake Ferguson will step into the top tight end role.

Tagging Pollard in 2023 seems to have been the plan all along, and now Dallas needs to face the consequences of its actions. Every franchise tag is a gamble in itself, and while losing star players like Elliott and Schultz will hurt, there’s no logical way around it. Accept the losses and move on.

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