The NFL’s franchise tag window opened Tuesday, and all eyes are on the Dallas Cowboys and whether they exercise the tag.
Recent reports have hinted Tony Pollard will get the tag after he emerged as the Cowboys’ lead running back in 2022 and broke 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career. It’s unclear whether Pollard’s season-ending injury will have any impact on his future, but Jerry Jones has stated several times that he envisions Pollard staying with the organization for at least the 2023 season.
Dalton Schultz, Donovan Wilson, and Leighton Vander Esch are other franchise tag candidates for Dallas. Given the sheer cost of the tags for their positions, though, it’s far more likely the front office broaches them about re-signing for a lower AAV than committing a hefty guaranteed salary for one season.
While the Cowboys sort out their own franchise tag debates, here are some players they should hope don’t get tagged by their current teams. After all, that would take them off the market with free agency just weeks away.
3 players Cowboys should hope don’t get franchise tagged
3. Dre’Mont Jones, DL (Broncos)
The Cowboys’ need for interior defensive line help goes without saying. Neville Gallimore is a potential cut candidate, Johnathan Hankins is a free agent, and Quinton Bohanna was inactive for the final three games (including the playoffs), and Week 9 marked the last time he played more than 30% of the snaps.
Osa Odighizuwa looks the part of a building block, but what good is having one tour de force lineman? That’s where Jones comes in.
A third-round pick in the 2019 draft, Jones ranks in the top 20 with 138 quarterback pressures, and a 14.5% pass-rush win rate since he entered the league, per PFF. In just 13 games in 2022, Jones tied his career-high with 6.5 sacks, and logged a personal best 25 defensive stops, to go with nine tackles for loss, 10 QB hits, and 33 hurries.
The only caveat with Jones is that he’s not a strong run defender, but the Cowboys could simply re-sign Hankins on a one-year deal to fill the avoid. And regardless, the value of interior pass-rushers has skyrocketed.
Jones is the Broncos only franchise tag candidate. Should Denver balk at paying him $19.72 million guaranteed for 2023, the Cowboys would be wise to at least poke around his market and see if he can be had for $12 million annually.