By: Anthony Miller
With the Monday deadline for NFL players to sign long-term deals before their franchise tags kick in, running back Tony Pollard and the Dallas Cowboys were not able to agree to a long-term deal.
News came Monday that Pollard and the Cowboys did not agree to a long-term contract, but he did sign his tender that will be a one-year, $10 million agreement. Pollard was one of three running backs (Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs) who received a franchise tag but did not agree to a long-term contract on Monday. Barkley and Jacobs did not sign their tenders and appeared to be in line to hold out during training camp.
Pollard is coming off a Pro Bowl season for Dallas as he eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his four-year NFL career. He added nine rushing touchdowns, 39 receptions for 371 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns. All are career highs for Pollard as his primary role was backup for Ezekiel Elliott, but his role started changing thanks to his performance which led to Elliott being cut in the offseason.
There’s no denying that Pollard played a big role in the Dallas offense, especially when quarterback Dak Prescott was out injured. He emerged as a top running back after years of sitting behind Elliott and waiting for his full shot. Despite his strong performance in 2022, it did not lead to a long-term deal, and it remains to be seen if it is a mistake or not.
The Argument Against Tony Pollard Signing Long Term
The cold, hard reality for running backs is that the position is not as valued as it used to be ten years ago. It’s become easy for teams to either find replacements for younger guys or have a tandem of running backs split carries. If a running back can’t catch the ball or return kickoffs and punts, there isn’t much value to them with the team.
A perfect example of this is the one Pollard has been on the right side of. Elliott was the top back for Dallas and even earned himself a long-term deal worth about $90 million and it all seemed to be going well for him. Pollard changed everything as he came in with his quick speed, ability to catch the ball, and even return punts for scores. All traits that Elliott did not have as his performance got worse every season and Pollard was improving every year. Now Elliott is a 27-year-old free agent still looking for a job.
It’s a cautionary tale for Pollard who is 26 years old and looking to be the featured back in the offense. Running backs can be replaceable no matter how good a back is. That’s why it’s important that he continues to improve his performance and use his versatility to his advantage. Any kind of regression for Pollard could mean the end of his Dallas run. Or at least his shot at making $10 million a year or more ever again.
The Argument for Tony Pollard Being Signed Long Term
While Pollard takes over as the leading running back for Dallas, there’s more to his game than just running the football. He’s got great hands making a strong impact in the passing game. His lightning-quick speed makes him dangerous in the open field. Even though he didn’t do this last season and might not do so in the future, Pollard can return kickoffs and punts if he is called upon to do so.
He’s not your typical one-dimensional player as he can do so much for the Cowboys’ offense. It’s been a while since Dallas had a back who can do so much for them on offense. He’s truly a weapon on the offense and with him not taking as many hits being a backup, he’ll have fresher legs and be used more often on offense.
Dallas has a player who can line up as a receiver or play special teams if he is needed. He’s got a few years under his belt and could play into his 30s, unlike other running backs who took hit after hit at the beginning of their careers. Should Pollard improve on his performance this season from last season, there’s no way Dallas can let him walk and will be forced to pay more to bring him back. This is a “prove it” year for Pollard and from the look of last year, he’s ready for the challenge.
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