Dallas Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones offered a free agency forecast, vowing to use the franchise tag before the March 7 deadline.
The most popular presumption is the Cowboys using the franchise tag to retain running back Tony Pollard, given the one-year salary for tagged running backs would be just over $10 million in 2023.
“We’re not afraid of the tag. End of the day we’ll probably use it again this year,” Jones said at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Key free agents on offense — Pollard and tight end Dalton Schultz — are the likely targets for the tag Jones would consider. Schultz was tagged in 2022, but the Cowboys received strong production from his backups last season. Tagging Schultz at 120 percent of the franchise figure — required when using the franchise marker in consecutive years — would guarantee him $13.1 million in 2023.
The Cowboys have a few variables to consider with Pollard. Ezekiel Elliott is 27 and has a cap charge of $16.7 million, including $10.9 million in base salary. He shared the load at the position with Pollard last season, and Elliott ran for a career-low 876 yards. But Pollard is entering free agency, which officially begins March 15, two months removed from a broken leg sustained in a playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Jones said adjusting Elliott’s contract is part of the team’s discussions before the tag deadline next Tuesday.
“He’s making a lot of money, and he knows that,” Jones said of Elliott.
The Cowboys also want to keep 32-year-old offensive tackle Tyron Smith, Jones said, and called the challenge of retaining a surplus of talent a good problem to have. For that reason, Dallas knows it will need to use every resource available.
“More than likely we’ll use the franchise tag. Not necessarily on Tony, but (likely) we’ll use it,” Jones said.
–Field Level Media