Cowboys lapping NFL in cap space consumed by RBs after Tony Pollard tag

Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys made the obvious decision to franchise tag Tony Pollard.

A large contingent of Cowboys Twitter was indifferent to the idea of committing $10.09 million to a running back, but that’s a fair price to pay for Pollard given the spark he provided to the offense not only in 2022, but his first three seasons.

It also gives Dallas flexibility to move on from Pollard next offseason with zero dead money, or potentially franchise tag him again next year for $12 million if he rushes for another 1,000 yards on 5.0 yards per carry.

The important thing is they didn’t commit big money to a RB over a long-term contract, akin to what they did with Ezekiel Elliott.

While Dallas continues to mull over Elliott’s future with the organization, they currently owe their backfield duo an ungodly sum of money. In terms of salary cap chargers, Pollard and Elliott will count for $27.68 million this year.

The Titans are the next closest team at $19 million.

Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard combined cap hit for 2023 is preposterous.

That number is obviously subject to change. Even if Elliott is back with the Cowboys, it’ll be on a reduced salary — perhaps something in the $4-6 million range. That would bring Pollard and Elliott’s combined cap hit down to $16 million; just $3 million behind the second-place Titans, and not much less than the Saints ($18.8 million), Browns ($18.66 million), and Raiders ($16.57 million).

And if Elliott is released (with a post-June 1 designation), Dallas will only have Pollard’s $10.09 million at the position to navigate.

Perhaps this number-crunching will incentivize Jerry Jones and company to move on from Elliott. NFL analytics expert Warren Sharp did further digging and discovered that $27.68 million charge would be the highest in league history for running backs. Further, it would count for over 12% of their 2023 salary cap.

Of course, this isn’t a knock on Pollard.

As we noted earlier $10.09 million is more than a fair price to pay for a player of his caliber. He finished second at the position last season in yards per carry (5.2), forced 41 missed tackles, logged 31 explosive runs (runs of 10 or more yards), and 3.82 yards after contact per attempt.

Only Josh Jacobs, Nick Chubb, and Aaron Jones posted a higher rushing grade, according to Pro Football Focus.

Paying Pollard isn’t the problem. It’s the fact he’s making over $10 million while Elliott is still on the roster. This should add to the urgency to get Zeke’s future sorted out, because the team is now $16 million over the cap with Pollard’s $10.09 million added to the payroll.

This conversation becomes moot if Elliott is released, obviously. But if he’s back on a reduced salary, the Cowboys will still have some of the most money in the NFL committed to the running back position in an era where paying the position has proven to be detrimental to winning Super Bowls.

But hey, as long as Jerry’s guys get paid, right?