Cowboys’ Salary Cap, Impact on Ezekiel Elliott After Tony Pollard’s Franchise Tag

Cowboys’ Salary Cap, Impact on Ezekiel Elliott After Tony Pollard’s Franchise Tag
Doric SamMarch 6, 2023

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 16: Tony Pollard #20 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Raymond James Stadium on January 16, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Rising running back Tony Pollard was on his way to being one of the most coveted offensive players on the free-agent market, but the Dallas Cowboys aren’t willing to let him walk away so easily.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Cowboys placed their franchise tag on Pollard on Monday. The franchise tag for running backs is valued at $10.09 million for the 2023 season.

Per Over The Cap, Dallas currently has over $250 million in salary cap liabilities and just $16.5 million in cap space. With Pollard back in the fold and Ezekiel Elliott set to count for a $16.7 million cap hit this year, the Cowboys have a substantial amount of money committed to the running back position:

Yahoo Sports @YahooSports

The Cowboys are spending $27,681,000 of their 2023 salary cap on RBs 😳

Ezekiel Elliott – $16,720,000
Tony Pollard – $10,091,000 (franchise tag)
Malik Davis – $870,000

ESPN’s Todd Archer reported that Dallas has hopes of signing Pollard to a multiyear deal and met with his agent during the NFL Scouting Combine last week. The two sides have until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal, and if one is not reached he’ll play the season on the franchise tag.

Pollard is coming off a breakout season in which he ran for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns for the first 1,000-yard campaign of his four-year career. The 25-year-old was selected to the Pro Bowl, but he was unable to play because of a high ankle sprain suffered in the Cowboys’ divisional-round playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Pollard has a bright future and is emerging as the more effective running back in Dallas’ offense than Elliott. The 27-year-old ran for 876 yards and 12 touchdowns, carrying the ball 231 times compared to Pollard’s 193.

There’s a chance the Cowboys look to pursue a restructured contract for Elliott, who signed a six-year, $90 million extension in 2019. If he’s released, the team could save $4.8 million against the cap or $10.9 million by designating him as a post-June 1 cut, though in that scenario he’d still count for nearly $6 million against the 2024 salary cap.

The Cowboys appear to be committed to Pollard as the lead back going forward, so Elliott’s time in Dallas could be coming to an end sooner than initially expected.

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