You could point to a number of plays that defined the Dallas Cowboys’ Divisional Round loss to the 49ers Sunday night.
Dak Prescott’s interception before halftime likely tops the list, but there’s no getting around the fact this game changed for the worst for the Cowboys on the previous play when Tony Pollard went down with an apparent ankle injury.
From that point, the Cowboys’ offense unraveled. Ezekiel Elliott found zero success both on the ground and as a receiver, as rookie Malik Davis couldn’t get a sniff. Essentially, CeeDee Lamb carried the offense, and it was nowhere near enough to sustain long drives against the 49ers’ vaunted defense.
It was initially speculated Pollard suffered a high ankle sprain. That alone would’ve knocked Pollard out for the NFC Championship Game, if not the Super Bowl had the Cowboys advanced that far.
Moments after the game ended, though, ESPN’s Todd Archer rubbed salt (or rubbing alcohol) in the wound when he reported Pollard suffered a fractured left fibula that will require surgery on top of his high-ankle sprain.
It’s anyone’s guess what this means for Pollard’s future, but might the injury steer the running back towards an extension with the Cowboys?
Are the Cowboys more likely to extend Tony Pollard after his devastating leg injury?
Let’s preface this by saying that this update sucks.
We’re all gutted for Pollard, and by no means are we speculating what his injury means for his Cowboys future with malice intent. It simply comes with the territory, and there’s no getting around the fact that what happened Sunday night will affect what the first-time Pro Bowler is able to earn this offseason.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Saturday that the Cowboys are open to franchise-tagging Pollard this offseason. It may come to that, but perhaps this injury improves Pollard’s chances of negotiating an extension. How many teams are going to throw top-dollar at a running back who’s coming off major surgery?
Most Cowboys fans would prefer Pollard get extended than play on the franchise tag. According to OverTheCap, the franchise tag for running backs in 2023 will be $10.1 million. An extension for Pollard was likely to fall in the $8-10 million range away (Nick Chubb makes $12 million annually on his current deal).
Following the injury, Pollard might be compelled to take the security of a multi-year contract taking more money on the franchise tag.
Whatever happens, Pollard’s earning ability as a free agent has been affected by this awful update. Who knows if that springs the Cowboys into action, but they should without question see if they can make it worthwhile, for both their sake and the player’s sake.