The team will use the franchise tag on the running back if the two sides can't reach an agreement on a long-term contract, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The deadline to use the franchise tag is Tuesday.
The #Cowboys will franchise tag RB Tony Pollard if the two sides cannot work out a long-term deal by the Tuesday deadline, sources say. Dallas has been clear the tag is an option, and they aren't in the business of letting great players walk. Pollard will be there in 2023.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 4, 2023
Speaking with reporters later Friday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones declined to comment on the report, but also called Pollard an "integral" part of the team.
Without the tag, Pollard would hit free agency after the best season of his career. The former fourth-rounder posted a career-high 1,007 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns despite splitting carries with Ezekiel Elliott, who got most of the goal-line attempts. Pollard also had 371 receiving yards and three touchdowns through the air.
Pollard is recovering from a broken fibula sustained in the Cowboys' playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but it's reportedly believed he will be ready well before training camp. Using the tag on Pollard would also mean not being be able to use it on pending free agents tight end Dalton Schultz and safety Donovan Wilson.
The Cowboys' plans at running back are one of the NFL's biggest stories of the offseason. In addition to keeping Pollard, Dallas need to make a decision on Elliott, who recorded a career-low 876 rushing yards and averaged a career-worst 3.8 yards per carry. Elliott is poised to carry a $16.7 million salary cap hit in the 2023 season per OverTheCap, but the Cowboys could also save $4.9 million in cap space by releasing him.
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones also hinted earlier this week the team wouldn't be opposed to using its 26th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on a running back. Texas star Bijan Robinson has been a popular topic of discussion while discussing the Cowboys' draft plans.
Whoever is running the ball for Dallas next season, and it now looks like Pollard will definitely be one of those people, they can probably expect to see a boost in work relative to last year. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy recently voiced his desire to run the ball more after the departure of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
Raiders have same plans for RB Josh Jacobs
Pollard wasn't the only running back reported to be likely receiving the franchise tag, as last season's rushing leader seems to be in the same boat.
Jacobs led the NFL in rushing yards last season with 1,653, plus 12 touchdowns and 400 receiving yards. Given that former quarterback Derek Carr was second on the team in rushing yards with 102, the Raiders didn't have much choice beyond keeping Jacobs.