The Dallas Cowboys have a huge decision to make at the running back position this offseason. With Ezekiel Elliott headed for a substantial pay cut or a release, fans are clamoring for Tony Pollard to assume the lead role.
While Elliott is still incredibly value to the offense, nobody would deny that Pollard’s earned the starting job. Ideally, the Cowboys would’ve extended Pollard last offseason after he notched over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns on 7.3 yards per touch, but the cap situation (gonna be their excuse every time) made that a long shot, if not impossible.
Much like with Dak Prescott, the front office is going to regret not getting ahead of the market. Pollard is no longer one of the NFL’s best-kept secrets. He’s a proven commodity and one of the league’s most dynamic backs, and his breakout campaign was rewarded with his first carer Pro Bowl nod.
In the final year of his rookie contract, the rubber of Pollard’s future will unfortunately meet the road come March. A franchise tag (not anyone’s cup of tea) is always a possibility with this front office, but let’s expand our parameters and project a contract extension for the ascending star.
Projecting a contract extension for Cowboys star Tony Pollard
If the Cowboys were smart, they won’t let Pollard get to free agency. The legal tampering period opens in mid-March, meaning the former fourth-round pick will be free to negotiate with any team. Teams are no longer moving heaven and earth to pay RBs top dollar, but Pollard will get a bag on the open market given he doesn’t have a ton of tread on his tires, and isn’t a 25-30 touch per game guy.
Not to mention, the free agent class for running backs is loaded. Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, David Montgomery, Damien Harris, Kareem Hunt, and Jamaal Williams are just some of the headliners of the stacked class.
In terms of annual average value, here’s how the RB position shakes out:
- Christian McCaffrey: $16 million
- Ezekiel Elliott: $15 million
- Alvin Kamara: $15 million
- Dalvin Cook: $12.6 million
- Derrick Henry: $12.5 million
- Nick Chubb: $12.2 million
Again, Pollard isn’t the workhorse some of those studs are. And it’s very possible Elliott restructures his contract to return.
That makes it all the more difficult to gauge what the Cowboys might offer Pollard, but something between $8-12 million annually over four years with an $8 million signing bonus and $15 million guaranteed could get the job done. For context, Joe Mixon and Aaron Jones both pocket $12 million per year.
Unfortunately, Dallas isn’t getting an Austin Ekeler-like steal with Pollard. The Chargers phenom inked a four-year, $24.5 million contract with Los Angeles in 2020, including a $6 million signing bonus and $15 million guaranteed. That’s a $6.125 million AAV for one of the most consistent and durable players at the position.
Perhaps Pollard could squeeze out a bigger check from Jerry Jones in the event Elliot is axed, but does anyone really envision Dallas cutting bait with Zeke? Whatever happens, Pollard’s earned becoming a top 10 highest-paid RB, and Elliott’s future shouldn’t — in any way — prevent that from happening.
Pollard’s production speaks for itself. Keep him home, Jerry.