Ezekiel Elliott was supposed to be entering the fourth year of a six-year, $90 million contract extension he signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019.
Instead, the three-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL rushing leader finds himself without a team and with a an apparently shrinking market.
But how did we get to this point? And why didn’t Dallas bring Elliott back?
Part of the answer is easy. Elliott averaged just 3.8 yards per carry in 2022, a career low and a far cry from the 5.1 he averaged as a rookie.
But he could have renegotiated his deal to stay in Dallas, and early reports were that both Elliott and the Cowboys wanted to make a deal happen.
Instead, he was released after the two sides fail to come to an agreement. Now we have a bit of insight as to why a new deal didn’t happen.
Jori Epstein of Yahoo Sports reports that the Cowboys didn’t want to “insult” Elliott with a low ball offer.
“The last thing we want to do is do anything that would be insulting to a player, to a great player, like Zeke, who was one of the best players to ever put on a Cowboys uniform,” Stephen Jones said. “There are sensitivities when you get into making offers.” – via Yahoo Sports
Jones then compared the situation to those of former Cowboys legends Emmitt Smith and DeMarcus Ware.
“Sometimes the best thing is to let them get a feel for what the market is,” Stephen Jones said, comparing Elliott’s release to past releases of Cowboys Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and DeMarcus Ware. “When you’re talking about great players — and that’s what makes them great: They think a lot, not in a selfish way, but they perceive themselves as a great player and they are. It just becomes how do you make the business work. It always boils down to that unfortunately.
Elliott is still a capable short-yardage back and his pass blocking is still above average for a running back. But he seems to have lost the burst that made him a start early in his career.
Given the lack of emphasis on running backs in recent years and the depth of the position in the 2023 NFL Draft, it could be a while before Elliott finds a new home.