Tony Pollard Free Agency Watch | Landing Spots and Free Agency Outlook

by Matt Babich · Contracts & Free Agency
Tony Pollard contract

PlayerProfiler is home to the very best dynasty rankings and tools in the industry. Our Dynasty Deluxe package includes complete Dynasty Rankings, Rookie Rankings, Trade Analyzer, Draft Planner, Mock Drafts, and more. Check it outThis is PlayerProfiler’s 2024 Free Agency Preview. This year, we’ll be providing you with player-by-player insights as we approach the Free Agency period opening March 13th. In the last edition, we broke down the free agency outlook for Austin Ekeler. Tony Pollard‘s contract is up this offseason and we’ll continue this series by examining the potential landing spots and outlook for the Cowboys running back.

2023 Review

After finally breaking the mold during the 2022 season, expectations were sky high for Tony Pollard going into the 2023 season. Despite the fact he ended the 2022 season with a fractured tibia, he was drafted as the RB8 in fantasy drafts. Needless to say, the expectations resulted in disappointment. Pollard chalked up his least efficient season in the NFL, leading to an RB23 finish.

Without Ezekiel Elliott in town to take on the grunt work, Pollard was forced to expand his workload beyond the facets that make him so electric. He was forced to pound the rock up the middle on early and short downs. Shockingly, the veteran back didn’t have as much juice when it came time to get into open space. Ultimately, his rushing stats suffered, and he came in at 3.9 (No. 42) True Yards Per Carry and a 4.4-percent (No. 25) Breakaway Run Rate.

There are some caveats to Pollard’s performance from last season. First, he wasn’t given much help through his run blocking, finishing with 2.1 Yards Before Contact Per Attempt (T-No.2 among backs with 200-plus carries). Through his struggles, he still finished with seven RB12 or better finishes despite only six touchdowns. This is all without mentioning that he returned early from his tibia recovery and was clearly not 100-percent for a good portion of the season.

After a disappointing campaign as a workhorse back, Pollard enters free agency surrounded by doubts about his ability to truly command a backfield.

Most Likely Landing Spots

Dallas Cowboys

No matter how you evaluate Pollard’s talent, you don’t relentlessly force Pollard up the middle. That’s a misuse of his talents. The reason the Elliott-Pollard tandem worked so well is because the scheme utilized the best of both backs’ strong suits. It won’t be shocking if the Cowboys go back to a similar backfield duo. So far, we haven’t heard much on the front office’s desire (or lack thereof) to bring back Pollard. At his perceived price point, it’s hard to imagine they don’t make a push.

Early rumors indicate the Cowboys will likely opt out of any bidding war for the veteran. After playing himself out of a lucrative contract, however, returning to the Cowboys on a short term deal may be Pollard’s best option. The offense is guaranteed to be among the elites. Pairing a repaired offensive line with a revised role, Pollard could return to the good graces of NFL and fantasy managers alike.

Houston Texans

With plenty of cap space to spare, the Texans are going to be a potential landing spot for most free agent running backs. They have the money and the contract structure (i.e. many rookie contracts across their star players) to afford to spend on a running back short term. It’s arguably the only position the Texans offense needs to truly rise into the elite category.

Pollard would fit perfectly into Houston’s zone rushing scheme that was able to get the most out of Devin Singletary and Dameon Pierce. While it may make more financial sense to simply draft a replacement, the lack of talent in the incoming class could lead to Houston opting for a safer option. Given another off-season of recovery, Pollard could easily crack the top-20 RBs in fantasy as a Texan.

Las Vegas Raiders

Should the Raiders opt to move on from Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard could end up being the replacement. With the breakout of Zamir White, a 5th round draft pick, Las Vegas is essentially working with a “free square” at the position. Given past performance and age, Jacobs is likely to have a higher going rate in free agency.

As a result, the Raiders could opt to pay less to Pollard and create a similar one-two punch between him and White. The two backs could complement each other well, White more suited for short yardage and up-the-middle looks and Pollard for hitting the outside zones and creating versatile looks through the pass game. White is a talented back, but not a true elite pass catching presence like Pollard. The Raiders are working with a lot of cap and a defense that can already hold its own, so adding Pollard is a reasonable outcome.

Los Angeles Chargers

With Austin Ekeler entering free agency, the Chargers have a gaping hole on offense. Joshua Kelley proved last season he is not a viable option in the backfield. Further, the cleaning of the Chargers coaching staff will bring in a fresh perspective on what to do with the roster. From his time at Michigan, it’s clear Jim Harbaugh values the running game. While he generally prefers a workhorse mold, he understands that achieving this is far easier in the college landscape.

Bringing in Pollard on a cheap, prove-it deal while the team figures out their long term answer through the draft may just be what Harbaugh wants. The Chargers are surely looking to compete sooner rather than later, given their roster and Harbaugh’s competitive desire. The big issue is that the Chargers would have to move a lot of money around to sign Pollard, making this a tough swing for LA.

Predicted Landing Spot

Jerry Jones doesn’t often abandon his guys, but I have a sinking feeling Pollard has played his last game as a Cowboy. I don’t expect the Cowboys to use the franchise tag on the former Memphis Tiger, leaving him open to seek offers from the open market. The Houston Texans have enough cash to pay Pollard his proper value. They run an offense that meshes with his play style, and Houston is close to Pollard’s current home in Dallas.

The Texans need to up-level their running back room to compete amongst the elite offenses. Inserting a now fully healthy Pollard into the gorgeous zone run scheme they wielded last season would be a joy to watch, and would make Pollard a fantasy value going into next season.