The Cowboys were among many teams to add running backs during the draft, a signal seen by some that they are fully prepared to move on from Ezekiel Elliott. That still may not be the case, however.
The Cowboys used a sixth-round pick on Deuce Vaughn, a move which generated considerable interest in its own right around the league given the fact that his father Chris works in the team’s scouting department. The Kansas State product figures to serve in a rotational role behind Tony Pollard, who will play on the franchise tag in 2023 after establishing himself as the clear-cut No. 1 back for Dallas.
The five-foot-five Vaughn will likely never be tasked with handling short-yardage and goal line duties, however, something which was true of Elliott in 2022 in particular. The latter’s efficiency and totals hit a career low last season, but he could still carve out a specific role as a power back in the next offense he plays in. That could still end up bringing him back to Dallas.
When asked if the door is now closed to an Elliott reunion, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, “No, no, no, not at all. That ship hasn’t sailed yet. We haven’t made a decision. We obviously drafted a running back, but a little different style than Zeke. I’m not trying to be cute. But nothing we did today changes that” (h/t David Moore of the Dallas Morning News).
It was learned last month that the Cowboys declined to offer the two-time rushing champion a pay cut after making the expected move of releasing him. At that point, they acknowledged the possibility of a reunion, though it remains to be seen how motivated they will be to bring Elliott into what is now a more crowded backfield. The former No. 4 pick has yet receive much (if anything) in the way of interest from the three other teams he is reportedly looking to join.
That could change in the near future, as he and all other veteran free agents will evaluate which teams could represent suitable landing spots with the draft now complete. A number of experienced running backs are still on the market, but Elliott’s future – with the Cowboys or otherwise – could become clearer soon.
“That’s what we’ll be sitting here evaluating,” Jones added. “We’ll look and see what his situation is, what our situation is. But I have not ruled out Zeke.”