How the Cowboys placing franchise tag on RB Tony Pollard impacts Eagles’ Miles Sanders
The Dallas Cowboys placed the franchise tag on talented running back Tony Pollard Monday, ensuring that he’ll be on the roster even if the two sides cannot reach a long-term deal before the Tuesday deadline, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
The one-year tag will cost $10.091 million for next season.
For division rival, Philadelphia, the NFL’s new league year is fast approaching, and one major domino will center around Miles Sanders, and how much the running back can land on the open market.
That decision for Howie Roseman just got even more difficult thanks to Jerry Jones.
Sanders made his first Pro Bowl, amassed 1,200+ rushing yards and 10+ touchdowns this season, and will look to land among the top-paid players at his position.
How does the tag impact Pollard, the Cowboys, and more importantly, Miles Sanders going forward?
Comparing Pollard to Sanders
While Sanders finally had his breakout season, Pollard did so as well, leading the Cowboys in rushing yards last year with 1,007. He scored nine rushing touchdowns and added another 371 receiving yards and three scores on 39 receptions for a career-high 1,378 scrimmage yards and 12 total touchdowns across 16 games while sharing the backfield with Elliot last season.
It was a breakout year for the fourth-year back who was drafted out of Memphis in the fourth round of the 2019 draft.
Pollard averaged 5.2 yards per carry this season and had 39 catches for 371 yards and three touchdowns.
For his part, Sanders is one of only seven running backs to begin his career with three straight seasons of 750 rushing yards and a 4.5 average or better. The others are Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Nick Chubb, Abner Haynes, Barry Sanders, and Gale Sayers.
Notable free agent running backs
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Tony Pollard, 25, Franchise Tag– (Dallas Cowboys)
Miles Sanders, 25, (Philadelphia Eagles)
David Montgomery, 25, (Chicago Bears)
Kareem Hunt, 27, (Cleveland Browns)
Damien Harris, 26, (New England Patriots)
Jamaal Williams, 27, (Detroit Lions)
Devin Singletary, 25, (Buffalo Bills)
Rashaad Penny, 27, (Seattle Seahawks)
Saquon Barkley, 26, (New York Giants)
Highest paid running backs for 2023
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Pollard’s $10 million cap number for 2023 would put him at No. 9 on the current list of the highest-paid running backs in the NFL.
Ezekiel Elliott and Joe Mixon could be cap hits, while Saquon Barkley could move up the list either with the franchise tag or signing a new deal with the Giants.
Eagles contract approach to running backs
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
According to Spotrac, only the Bucs, 49ers, and Cardinals are paying out less money to the running back position going forward.
That number could increase if Leonard Fournette returns to Tampa next season.
The Eagles have benefited from a running back-by-committee approach over the past few years and the personnel could trend towards that way of playing regardless of Sanders getting a new deal.
In 2022, Sanders earned a base salary of $1,224,569, while carrying a cap hit of $1,704,156 and a dead cap value of $479,587.
Final outlook for Sanders
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Using the franchise tag on Sanders would cost the Eagles between $12M-$16M, while a fair value extension would be less taxing on the salary cap.
From a production and value standpoint alone, Sanders’ first three years of work should get him a fair deal that averages somewhere in between the $7.0 million per year Austin Ekeler earns from the Chargers, and James Conner is getting from the Cardinals.
A monster 2022 season for Sanders could have forced Philadelphia into the $12 million per season that Nick Chubbs (Browns), Joe Mixon (Bengals), Derrick Henry (Titans), Aaron Jones (Packers), and Dalvin Cook (Vikings) all make.
With the Eagles retooling on defense, Howie Roseman will likely aim more for the 3 years, $18.5M that would put Sanders in the company of Hines and other dual-threat backs without breaking the bank.
That could be asking for a lot as well.