2. Tony Pollard, RB
There is an extremely strong case to be made that running back Tony Pollard was the Cowboys’ offensive MVP in 2022. He did everything that was asked of him, and then some. All season long, Pollard was the most explosive weapon on one of the league’s most explosive offenses. Dallas finished the year ranked third in points and tenth in yards, Pollard was a big reason why.
For years the Cowboys have kept explosive offensive players on the roster who had the potential to become game-breaking weapons (if only they could figure out how to get them the ball). Every training camp the hype would build, and by week four fans were banging their heads against the wall because regardless of who was calling plays, Dallas never found ways to get them involved.
For a long time, it was running back Lance Dunbar, then it was wide receiver Tavon Austin, and in recent years it’s been Pollard. Well, the offense finally figured out how to get him the ball.
Tony Pollard was explosive for the Cowboys’ offense in 2022
The result was the best year of his young career. Pollard ran for over 1,000 yards this season for the first time and had his second consecutive season of more than 1,000 scrimmage yards. Amazing what happens when you make sure your most explosive players get to touch the football!
Since entering the league as a rookie in 2019, Pollard has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ fifth-best running back.
Of course, Cowboys fans know from (relatively recent) experience that there is some inherent danger in giving a running back a big second contract. Let alone one who is set to be coming off a big injury. It’s safe to say that they don’t want a repeat of what happened with either Ezekiel Elliott or Michael Gallup.
Pollard’s injury was nothing short of heartbreaking. In fact, it flat-out sucks. And the timing of it, right before he hits free agency, couldn’t have been worse. It likely complicates what was sure to be a hot market for him. He was entering the offseason as one of the top running backs in free agency.
That said, with the franchise tag clocking in at around $10.1 million, the Cowboys don’t need to know exactly what a second contract for Pollard might look like. They can continue to do their homework on his injury, tag him, and attempt to work something out. They could also let him play on the tag and kick the proverbial contact can down the road. Of course, that also means the team will need to make a decision on Zeke sooner rather than later.
Sure, it’s also possible that Texas running back Bijan Robinson falls right into their laps with the 26th overall pick. I wouldn’t count on it though. Pollard has earned the right to come back and be the Cowboys’ featured back next season. He should be rewarded for it.