Cowboys To Release Ezekiel Elliott

2:21pm: Elliott will be designated as a post-June 1 cut, per Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of (on Twitter). This will create summer savings for the Cowboys, who used this distinction on La’el Collins last year. The Cowboys have since informed Elliott he will be released.

8:52am: The Cowboys are planning to move on from their two-time rushing champion. After a seven-season run, the team is expected to release Ezekiel Elliott, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

While designating Elliott as a post-June 1 cut would save the team $10.1MM, a standard release would free up $4.9MM in funds immediately. The move could take place Wednesday, Hill adds. A post-June 1 distinction will allow the Cowboys to avoid an $11.8MM dead-money charge as a result of this release.

With Tony Pollard receiving the franchise tag, Elliott has loomed as a release candidate. Although Jerry Jones has continually praised the former No. 4 overall pick, Elliott’s play has declined in recent years. Pollard’s Pro Bowl nod last year displayed what has taken place during that time; the former fourth-round pick has overtaken Elliott in Dallas’ backfield.

Jones said at the Combine he wanted to find a way for the team to retain Elliott, but after placing the $10.1MM tag on Pollard, it looks like the Cowboys are not planning to devote much more money to their running back room.

Elliott said he would be amenable to a pay cut that would allow him to remain with the team. It is unclear how far along the sides progressed on this front. The Ohio State product is tied to a $10.9MM base salary and an untenable $16.72MM cap number in 2023. The Cowboys already adjusted the contracts of Dak Prescott and Zack Martin, freeing up money to make multiple big moves Tuesday, but they have not touched Elliott’s. It appears that $15MM-per-year deal will come off Dallas’ books nearly four years after the parties agreed to terms.

Elliott is still just 27 and only one year removed from his most recent 1,000-yard rushing season. Following that 1,002-yard showing in 2021, a season in which the veteran back played through a PCL tear, Zeke matched Pollard with 12 touchdowns in ’22. He has 80 for his career. But Elliott averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per carry in 2022, showing signs of the high-mileage workloads the Cowboys saddled him with in the past. Elliott’s 2,186 touches lead all active running backs. He missed two games last year, hyperextending the same knee he hurt in 2021. Elliott dubbed that injury an MCL tear, though Hill adds surgery is not expected.

The Cowboys’ Elliott pick led to a stretch in which the team saw multiple backs — DeMarco Murray and Elliott — combine for three rushing titles from 2014-18. Running behind Dallas’ three-Pro Bowler O-line, Elliott flourished on his rookie contract and joined Prescott in leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record in 2016 and a divisional-round run two years later. The Cowboys rewarded Elliott with a six-year, $90MM extension, locking him down for eight seasons. That contract remains tied for second among running backs, with only Christian McCaffrey‘s $16MM-per-year pact topping it. The Giants are not prepared to match Zeke’s AAV for Saquon Barkley, despite nearly four years passing since the Cowboys accord came to pass.

Elliott’s 8,262 rushing yards rank third in Cowboys history, trailing only Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett. It will be interesting to see if another team brings him aboard as part of a committee. There are still several starter-caliber backs available, however, and Elliott has not been especially productive in the passing game for a while. Last season, he totaled 92 receiving yards.

Despite Pollard’s increased production and involvement, Jones said last season Elliott would remain Dallas’ starter and cited his myriad contributions. But the Cowboys are preparing to make Pollard their starter in 2023. The team rosters former UDFAs Malik Davis and Rico Dowdle but now should be considered in the market for a running back addition — presumably via the draft.

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