Ezekiel Elliott Unlikely To Return To Cowboys?

For the first time in his career, Ezekiel Elliott is a free agent. His release from the Cowboys has left open the possibility of a new deal allowing him to stay in Dallas, but such a development does not appear likely at this point.

The chances of Elliott playing for the Cowboys again are “slim,” reports Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Dallas has significant money already invested in the running back position for the coming season with Tony Pollard on the franchise tag. A deal worth far less than the $11MM in salary Elliott was due to make (along with the $16.7MM cap hit he was set to carry on his previous contract) is the only way the 27-year-old could continue his Cowboys career.

Elliott was reportedly willing to take a pay cut to make that possible, and the team has reaffirmed their willingness to keep him him in the fold at the right price. Pollard sits atop the Cowboys’ depth chart after outperforming Elliott in a number of categories, efficiency being the most notable one. The latter averaged 3.8 yards per carry, a figure which contributed to his 876 rushing yards; both statistics were the lowest of his seven-year career.

Florio adds that, in the absence of a Cowboys return, Elliott will eye a deal with a contender. Scheme fit and a team’s commitment to the run game are also, to little surprise, factors which will inform his decision. While successful teams can always use more depth in the backfield, the former top-five pick is surely bound for a depth role wherever he ends up signing this offseason.

The lone team to show reported interest in Elliott so far is the Buccaneers, a team which is undergoing significant change this offseason. Tampa Bay is feeling the effects of their all-in approach with Tom Brady and Co., and they now face a difficult financial situation. Retaining the likes of cornerback Jamel Dean and linebacker Lavonte David has given the NFC South champions a notable degree of continuity on defense, but an investment in a veteran at the RB position would be somewhat surprising.

Presuming Elliott does indeed held elsewhere, running back will become a position of need for the Cowboys either in the latter stages of free agency or the draft. The Ohio State product, meanwhile, would start the second chapter of his NFL career in unfamiliar territory while looking to rebuild his value.

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