The Cowboys could be facing a difficult decision for their running back room.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Dallas plans to use the franchise tag on Tony Pollard if a long-term deal can’t be reached prior to Tuesday’s deadline.
That would give the sides until July 17 to negotiate an extension before the 25-year-old would play the 2023 season on the tag’s $10.091 million salary.
But the move would also put the Cowboys in a tricky position to figure out how to manage both Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott on their roster with long-term contracts.
Dallas could save $4.86 million by releasing Elliott before July 1, according to OverTheCap, but if Elliott remains on the roster, he’ll count at a $16.72 million hit.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn’t confirm NFL Network’s report when asked by reporters Friday, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Instead, he kept directing answers to different aspects of the franchise tag — how revealing his plans could impact other negotiations, how there’s a variety of ways Dallas could use the tag on a hypothetical player.
“Why would I say that? You know I shouldn’t say that,” Jones told the group of reporters when asked about the Pollard report. “Because I may be trying to sign somebody else and I’m threatening with the franchise tag.”
Pollard topped 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his four-year career in 2022, adding 12 total touchdowns and becoming a key part of Dallas’ offense — and even, at times, taking over the primary role that Elliott has held since the Cowboys drafted him in 2016 and he led the NFL in rushing yards, rushing attempts and rushing yards per game his rookie season.
But in their NFC divisional-round matchup against the 49ers, Pollard fractured his left fibula, and it required offseason surgery.
“What I am saying is my awareness of the repair that was done is good in terms of being able to not have it alter his contract,” Jones said about Pollard’s injury and recovery.
The Dallas Morning News reported in January that Elliott would be willing to take a pay cut to remain with the team for an eighth season.
If the Cowboys do eventually decide to part ways with Elliott, his last snap in a Cowboys uniform will be remembered as an odd one.
Dallas needed a touchdown to force overtime, and with the ball on its own 24-yard line, they lined up Elliott at center — to snap the ball — and had their offensive linemen on the outside.
But as soon as Prescott took the snap, 49ers linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair immediately shoved Elliott to the ground, and a short pass fell incomplete before any attempt at a lateral could get established.