Ezekiel Elliott

Latest On Cowboys’ RB Plans

Leading up to the draft, the Cowboys were frequently linked to selecting a running back relatively early. Dallas eschewed a number of opportunities to add a rookie to the backfield, though, and immediately following the event a reunion with Ezekiel Elliott was finalized.

Owner Jerry Jones’ comments about Elliott’s ability to remain a starter at this point in his career were matched by the former rushing champion himself. Elliott is by far the most experienced back on the Cowboys’ roster, but head coach Mike McCarthy revealed at the team’s rookie minicamp that a committee approach will be used in 2024.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” McCarthy said about Elliott resuming his previous role as a workhorse back. “What do you mean? The guy carried the ball more than anybody in the history of football in the first couple of years. That’s not going to be his role, we’re a running back by committee. He’ll definitely play at the level that he’s played at in my time here. I anticipate that. I don’t see any drop off in the way he moves” (h/t Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News).

After allowing Tony Pollard to depart in free agency this offseason, Dallas has Elliott (who averaged a career-worst 3.5 yards per carry with the Patriots last season), Malik DavisRico Dowdle and free agent addition Royce Freeman as current running back options. As EVP Stephen Jones noted, however, the team is still open to further backfield additions. One back (Nathaniel Peat) was brought in as part of the Cowboys’ UDFA class. In terms of experienced candidates, Dalvin CookLatavius Murray, Cam Akers and Jerick McKinnon top the list of unsigned free agents.

Cook – like Elliott – was named as a back interested in a Cowboys deal earlier this offseason. It remains to be seen if that feeling is mutual in Cook’s case, something which is especially a question mark with Elliott now in the fold. Dallas currently has only $3.86MM in cap space, so moves at the running back position or any other would need to be inexpensive.

In 2023 (McCarthy’s first season as offensive play-caller), the Cowboys led the NFL in scoring while ranking third in passing yards. The team was mid-pack on the ground (14th), though, leaving plenty of room for improvement this season. Elliott will have a significant role to play upon his return to Dallas, but it will be interesting to see how the rest of the backfield shakes out over the coming months.

NFC Contract Details: Saints, Sewell, Elliott

The Saints made a couple of roster moves in recent weeks that we’re finally getting to some details on. These include the deals to sign guard Shane Lemieux, offensive lineman Justin Herron, and defensive back Will Harris and the retirement of offensive lineman James Hurst.

Lemieux and Herron were both signed shortly after the NFL Draft. According to Katherine Terrell of ESPN, Lemieux signed a one-year deal at the veteran minimum of $1.06MM, all of which will count against the salary cap. Herron’s deal is also for one year at the league minimum of $1.13MM. Due to the veteran salary benefit, his contract will only count $985K against the cap.

Harris signed at the turn of the month earlier this week. After five years with the Lions, Terrell tells us that Harris is joining the Saints on a one-year deal worth $1.29MM with a base salary of $1.13MM and a signing bonus of $167.5K. The guaranteed amount of his deal will include the signing bonus and $324K of his base salary. Harris’ contract will count for $1.15MM against the salary cap.

Lastly, Terrell tells us that Hurst, who announced his retirement back in April, will still count against the salary cap. He will count as $2.28MM in dead money, including a $1.5MM roster bonus.

Here are details on a couple other deals reached around the NFC in recent weeks:

  • We already knew some details on Penei Sewell‘s extension with the Lions, but thanks to Mike Florio of NBC Sports, we now have a bit more detail. The deal includes a fully guaranteed amount of $42.99MM consisting of a $15MM signing bonus, a $25MM option bonus in 2025, full base salaries from 2024 to 2026 of $1.45MM, $1.54MM, and $19.9MM, and $12.11MM of the 2027 base salary (worth $23.9MM total). He’ll receive $100K workout bonuses in each offseason after 2025 and a potential $2.5MM roster bonus in 2029.
  • We had some details on Ezekiel Elliott‘s reunion with the Cowboys, but ESPN’s Todd Archer provided some additional detail. We now know that the deal includes a fully guaranteed base salary of $1.25MM and signing bonus of $375K. Elliott can earn an active roster bonus of $375K and will count for $2MM against the cap. He can earn an additional $1MM in incentives, all of which require a playoff berth ($250K for 1,100 scrimmage yards, $250K for 10 touchdowns, and $500K for over 50 percent of the team’s offensive snaps).

Ezekiel Elliott Addresses Cowboys Reunion

After a single season in New England, Ezekiel Elliott is back where his career began. The longtime Cowboys running back signed a one-year deal worth up to $3MM on Monday, and his comments reflecting on the agreement confirmed his desire to return to Dallas.

This was my priority. Doing what I could do to get back here,” Elliott said (via Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). I have a lot left to accomplish here. I’m excited to get back with the fellas and chase that ring.”

Leading up to the draft, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made it clear Elliott could be brought back regardless of if a rookie was added during the weekend. Especially with Dallas not selecting a running back, it came as no surprise the 28-year-old was brought back into the fold. Elliott played on a one-year deal with the Patriots in 2023, and he produced underwhelming rushing totals (642 yards on a 3.5 yards per carry average).

However, the former rushing champion noted that his knee is in better shape now than it was during his most recent Cowboys campaign. Elliott dealt with a torn PCL in 2022, a year in which he saw 231 carries (his fewest with Dallas) and ceded early-down work to Tony Pollard. The latter served as the Cowboys’ lead back in 2023 while playing on the franchise tag, but his free agent departure has created a vacancy atop the depth chart.

Jones has publicly stated he feels Elliott can still operate as a lead back based on his performance in New England. The Ohio State product took over that role once Rhamondre Stevenson was injured, and his 51 receptions led the Patriots’ low-powered offense. Elliott recorded 313 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air, and that production could help him earn playing time on third downs in addition to his short-yardage abilities.

“I feel like I’m still a starter,” Elliott added, echoing Jones’ comments. I got the chance to start down the stretch last year. I felt comfortable in that role. I looking forward to doing what I need to do for this team.”

Dallas also has Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn and Malik Davis as other running backs in place for the time being. Elliott provides far more experience than that trio in addition to his familiarity with the organization. The Cowboys have yet to unveil their UDFA class, one which could include one or more backfield options. The team has $5.25MM in cap space (a figure which will drop once its rookie class is signed), meaning another veteran addition could be made. In Elliott’s case, though, both team and player are enthusiastic about the potential brought about by their reunion.

Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott Agree To Deal

In a move which comes as no surprise at this point, Ezekiel Elliott is set to return to the Cowboys. The former rushing champion has a deal in place with Dallas pending a physical, Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network report.

This is a one-year agreement worth $3MM, per Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Elliott will collect $2MM guaranteed, he adds. The 28-year-old is therefore in line to once again take on a notable role in the Cowboys’ backfield.

One month ago, Elliott was named (alongside Dalvin Cook) as a veteran back interested in a Cowboys contract. Signs pointed to the team matching that desire in Elliott’s case shortly thereafter, and while Cook is still unsigned the former No. 4 pick is back where his career began. Elliott spent seven years in Dallas, earning three Pro Bowl invitations and one first-team All-Pro nod in his opening four campaigns.

The Ohio State product’s efficiency began to wane afterwards, however, and in 2022 he ceded some of his workload to Tony Pollard. During the subsequent offseason, Dallas retained Pollard via the franchise tag and released Elliott. That move led to a $6MM dead cap charge for 2024, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones publicly indicated that figure would not dissuade him from pursuing a reunion. Taking the dead money charge into account, Elliott will represent a rather lucrative commitment on offense for the Cowboys this year.

Pollard was not retained this offseason, and he became one of several veteran running backs who quickly found a new home in free agency. That created a vacancy atop Dallas’ backfield depth chart and led many to expect a notable investment in the position. After Royce Freeman was added on a low-cost deal, the team appeared to be set up for a rookie addition during last weekend’s draft. The Cowboys did not add at the position, however, having spoken with Elliott on the eve of the opening round.

With a deal now in place, Elliott will re-join a Cowboys team which also includes the likes of Rico DowdleDeuce Vaughn and Malik Davis in the backfield. Following his Dallas release, Elliott joined the Patriots on a one-year deal similar to this one. The 2023 campaign produced career-lows in carries (184), yards (642) and efficiency (3.5 yards per attempt), but Jones still views him as being capable of handling a starter’s workload. It will be interesting to see how Elliott’s role shakes out in 2024 upon return to a familiar team.

Cowboys Close To Re-Signing Ezekiel Elliott?

SUNDAY, 9:48am: The Cowboys did not add a running back on Day 3 of this weekend’s draft either. As Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram relays, Jerry Jones believes that Elliott still has RB1 abilities, and while executive vice president Stephen Jones conceded in his post-draft presser that the team would have considered an RB if the right player had been available, the running back need never aligned with value in the front office’s estimation (via Moore).

Interestingly, last year’s Trey Lance trade is a primary reason for Dallas’ inability to select a Day 3 RB prospect. The Cowboys sent a fourth-round choice, which ultimately became 2024’s No. 124 overall pick, to the 49ers in exchange for Lance in August. After the Niners used that pick on safety Malik Mustapha, five of the next 10 players off the board were running backs. Four of those — Bucky Irving, Ray Davis, Isaac Guerendo, and Braelon Allen — were intriguing to Dallas, which did not have a selection between pick nos. 87 and 174.

While Stephen Jones did not mention Elliott by name when speaking to reporters after the draft was over, Moore says “it was understood” the EVP was talking about Elliott when he said, “we’ll have opportunities throughout to address this running back situation and feel like we’ll get that done.”

SATURDAY, 7:10am: Jones continues to hint that a reunion with Elliott could be coming. When asked why the Cowboys didn’t add to the RB position through the first two days of the draft, the team’s owner pointed back to their former star.

“First of all, the draft’s not over and that’s a thought,” Jones said (via ESPN’s Todd Archer). “And it was a long time before a running back was taken in today’s draft. But we also are keenly interested in seeing what the future might look like with Zeke.”

FRIDAY, 4:45pm: A deal with Elliott remains “increasingly imminent” at this point, something which would remain the case even with Brooks or another rookie being selected tonight, per Moore’s colleague Michael Gehlken. It will be interesting to see if further progress on a Dallas agreement produces a response from the other interested party Jones mentioned, or if a reunion officially comes together in the near future.

12:21pm: The Cowboys separated from Ezekiel Elliott‘s six-year, $90MM extension in 2023, but a reality in which the running back is tied to two Dallas contracts on this year’s payroll appears firmly in play.

Rumblings about an Elliott-Cowboys reunion have surfaced at multiple points this offseason, and the team met with the two-time rushing champion Wednesday. Elliott and his agent met were seen with Cowboys brass at multiple locations Wednesday, and Jerry Jones confirmed (via the Dallas Morning News’ David Moore) team brass “spent a lot of time with Zeke” this week.

Jones also said if (when?) the Cowboys draft a running back Friday night it would not have any bearing on how they approach an Elliott reunion. At least one other known suitor exists, per Jones, but Moore points to this reunion coming to pass. Jones said he thought Elliott played “very well” late last season with the Patriots.

This reunion was believed to be on the radar months after the team made the former star a cap casualty, but Elliott confirmed it did not gain much traction. That is no longer the case. Jones also said the $6MM — stemming from signing bonus proration on Elliott’s 2019 extension — that remains on the team’s payroll will not affect how the team proceeds with Elliott now.

Not even a consideration,’’ Jones said. “He’s earned that $6 million. We’ve already spent it. You have to pay that whether he’s here or not. It won’t affect one thing with how he would help our team this year.’’

Elliott, 28, played last season on a one-year, $3MM deal. Another suitor being in the mix will likely lead to Elliott commanding more than the league minimum on a Cowboys reunion. While Elliott only averaged 3.5 yards per carry (a career-low number), he was tied to a 4-13 Patriots team that ran into injury issues up front — to say nothing of a woeful passing attack. Elliott started the final five Pats games, due to a Rhamondre Stevenson IR move, producing two 50-plus-yard rushing performances to close a 642-yard season in what amounted to a committee role.

Jones has offered effusive praise for Elliott in the past, even as Tony Pollard overtook him as the most productive Cowboys back. With Pollard in Nashville now, the Cowboys are likely to draft a replacement. Elliott returning would put him in position as a complementary option. Though, Dallas’ RB situation does not feature strong in-house solutions; journeyman Royce Freeman joins 2023 backup Rico Dowdle and sixth-round Deuce Vaughn, who goes 5-foot-6.

Additionally, Jones confirmed (via ESPN.com’s Todd Archer) Texas running back Jonathon Brooks is “high, high, high, high” on the team’s draft board ahead of Day 2. Jones went so far as to call his interview with Brooks the best he has conducted in 30 years. Playing behind Bijan Robinson in 2022, Brooks played well as a junior last season, accumulating 1,139 rushing yards and 10 TDs. Daniel Jeremiah’s NFL.com big board slots Brooks as the second-best option — in what is viewed as an unremarkable RB class — despite the ex-Longhorn having suffered a torn ACL last year. With the Cowboys passing on Derrick Henry and others in March, they figure to be prepared to add here soon this weekend.

Cowboys Contemplating Ezekiel Elliott Reunion

A report from last month indicated a mutual interest existed between the Cowboys and running back Ezekiel Elliott. On the eve of the draft, Dallas’ actions continue to point in that direction.

CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson reports the Cowboys are currently meeting with Elliott’s agent. The two-time rushing champion has been linked to a new Dallas deal, and no known interest has been shown by other teams to date. Like many veterans, Elliott will likely have to wait until the post-draft wave of free agency to find an agreement.

As Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News notes, today’s conversations constitute nothing more than the parties “just talking.” Taking this one step further, his colleague David Moore adds the Cowboys merely touched base with Elliott and informed him they will “check back” after seeing how the draft unfolds.

As expected, Tony Pollard departed in free agency after playing out the 2023 season on the franchise tag. Elliott’s replacement as lead back joined the Titans, leaving Dallas short on experience at the RB spot. While Royce Freeman has since been added, the Cowboys remain frequently linked to drafting a back relatively early in the upcoming draft. Texas alum Jonathon Brooks in particular is often labeled as a potential Dallas target (likely in the second round).

Elliott spent his first seven seasons in Dallas, proving to be one of the league’s premier workhorse backs early on. He saw his efficiency drop over time, though, and it came as no surprise when he was cut last offseason. That led to a one-year Patriots agreement, and Elliott played a rotational role in New England’s low-powered offense. Logging a career-low 184 carries, the 28-year-old posted 642 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

That 3.5 yards per attempt average was the worst mark of Elliott’s career, although the Patriots’ offensive line and options at the other skill positions were not among the league’s strongest in 2023. A return to Dallas would likely represent an upgrade in both regards, and the absence of Pollard could result in a notable workload.

Still, the Ohio State alum’s underwhelming production (he last topped 4.0 yards per carry in 2021) in recent years will no doubt hurt his market value for the second straight offseason. Even with Elliott back in the fold, the Cowboys would be well-served to make a multi-year investment in the backfield over the course of the weekend. It will be interesting to see if today’s summit produces continued interest between team and player regarding a post-draft agreement.

Mutual Interest Between Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott In Reunion?

Earlier this week, a report named both Ezekiel Elliott and Dalvin Cook as running backs interested in a deal with the Cowboys. In the case of the former, that feeling appears to be mutual.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports Elliott and the Cowboys “have mutual interest in a reunion.” The former No. 4 pick began his career in Dallas, spending seven years with the team. Over the early portion of that span, he was one of the league’s dominant running backs; Elliott led the NFL in rushing in 2016 and ’19, and he earned three Pro Bowl invites in the first four years of his career.

Over time, though, the Ohio State product saw his efficiency begin to wane. The emergence of Tony Pollard led to a backfield committee, with Elliott serving as a short-yardage option toward the end of his Dallas tenure. Last offseason, he was released in a move which came as little surprise (although talk of a reduced deal was prevalent during the offseason, an agreement in that regard never came close to fruition).

Elliott ultimately joined the Patriots on an incentive-laden one-year deal. The 28-year-old posted a career-worst 3.5 yards per carry average in New England, a figure which resulted in a new personal low in rushing production (642 yards). He did post a team-leading 51 receptions, though, showcasing his continued ability as a pass-catching option out of the backfield.

Dallas kept Pollard on the franchise tag for 2023, and he was among the many running backs who found a new home very early in free agency this offseason. While the Cowboys have since re-signed Rico Dowdle, the team is in need of a backfield addition either in the secondary wave of free agency or next month’s draft. Elliott would fit the bill as a familiar and experienced back alongside Dowdle and 2023 sixth-rounder Deuce Vaughn, though other options will be available (particularly with respect to rookies next month).

No other teams have been connected to Elliott so far, a sign of his market value coming off a down season in New England. His age and declining production will certainly hurt the value of his next contract, but it would certainly be noteworthy if it came from the Cowboys.

Cowboys To Make RB Addition; Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook Interested In Deal?

With Tony Pollard no longer in the picture, the Cowboys are an obvious candidate to draft a running back next month. A veteran signing before then would come as little surprise, though, and a pair of high-profile names could be eyeing a Dallas agreement.

When speaking at the league meetings, head coach Mike McCarthy confirmed (via NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo) Dallas will be making at least one addition at the RB spot. The Cowboys retained Rico Dowdle, who finished second on the team in rushing yards last season. Dallas also has 2023 sixth-rounder Deuce Vaughn in the backfield, but an experienced option would be a welcomed addition to take the place of Pollard.

Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News reports both Ezekiel Elliott and Dalvin Cook “have interest in potentially signing” with the Cowboys. In the former’s case, a deal would of course represent a reunion. Elliott spent his first seven seasons with Dallas, twice leading the league in rushing during that span. His efficiency began to wane over time, though, and by the end of his Cowboys stint he was used more as a short-yardage specialist than a true lead back.

The Cowboys, as expected, released the former No. 4 pick last offseason with no guaranteed money remaining on his deal. Elliott signed a one-year pact with the Patriots, and he split time with Rhamondre Stevenson for much of the year. Elliott saw a career-low 184 carries in 2023, and his 3.5 yards per attempt average was also the worst figure of his NFL tenure. Especially in a year which saw several high-end backs quickly land new deals, it comes as no surprise the 28-year-old (who, in fairness, drew trade interest at the deadline) is still on the market.

Cook likewise endured a disappointing season in 2023 after seeing his long-term Vikings tenure come to an end. After being let go by Minnesota, a lengthy free agent process ensued. Cook ultimately joined the Jets, but he struggled to carve out a role alongside Breece Hall in the backfield. New York waived the 28-year-old in January, setting up a brief audition period with the Ravens.

Baltimore used Cook sparingly in the postseason, and with Derrick Henry now in place a re-up with another veteran can be considered unlikely. Plenty of snaps will presumably be available in Dallas for Elliott, Cook or another experienced back looking for a new deal. Dallas would of course still be expected to use a Day 2 or 3 pick on a back during the draft even with a veteran signing, but with $6.7MM in cap space the team can afford a low-cost addition at the position.

AFC Injury Roundup: Steelers, Stevenson, Titans

This has been a typical rally year for the Steelers. Anytime things look less than ideal in a season for Pittsburgh, the team tends to pick things up and lead head coach Mike Tomlin to yet another winning season. They have done so this year as a bend-but-don’t-break defense has buoyed a struggling offense to a 7-5 record. That task will likely be getting a bit more difficult with the injury news concerning starting quarterback Kenny Pickett.

According to Brooke Pryor of ESPN, Pickett sustained a right ankle injury while trying to push for the endzone today and was forced to sit out the remainder of the game. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the injury is “not good” and that Pickett “will be out for an extended period.”

Pickett was replaced in today’s loss by backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky was able to score a touchdown in relief of Pickett but was unable to lead the team to victory after inheriting a tie game on the one-yard line. Tomlin made it clear that if Pickett is unable to go, which if Dulac is correct sounds like it will be the case, Trubisky will serve as the team’s starter.

With the Steelers facing a short week before hosting the Patriots, Pickett likely won’t have time to make a quick comeback, especially if the injury is “not good.” Expect Trubisky to lead the Pittsburgh offense this Thursday night.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the AFC, starting with another note from the Steel City:

  • Steelers starting safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who returned to the field today for the first time since October, was forced to leave the game for a period with a broken left hand, per Pryor. The break reportedly kept him from being able to grab the football, but he was able to cast and wrap the hand during the game’s two weather delays and finish the game with the injury. If the team feels it’s safe, Fitzpatrick may not need to miss any additional time as he can simply play with the cast, as he did today.
  • Speaking of the Thursday night turnaround, the Patriots are in danger of having to face the Steelers without starting running back Rhamondre Stevenson. Stevenson reportedly sprained his ankle today, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, and will undergo an MRI in order to determine how long he may be sidelined. Even if it’s a fairly minor sprain, the short week looms large for his availability. Backup rusher Ezekiel Elliott could find himself in a bigger role or even starting in Pittsburgh this coming week.
  • The Titans saw two players suffer scary knee injuries in today’s loss to the Colts. The two players who went down were star defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and backup tight end Josh Whyle. While the injuries were enough to sideline each player for a bit, beat writer Paul Kuharsky confirms that neither injury is season-ending.

AFC Trade Rumors: Patriots, Broncos, Renfrow

The Patriots fielded lots of calls for trade offers during today’s trade deadline, but two of the bigger names on their roster reportedly received no interest. According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, teams called New England to take the temperature on pass rusher Josh Uche, safety Kyle Dugger, and tackle Michael Onwenu, while quarterback Mac Jones and veteran running back Ezekiel Elliott didn’t receive any nibbles.

Uche, Dugger, and Onwenu are all facing contract-years, so they all held a decent chance of being dealt. Uche was reportedly the most likely, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. After a couple quiet years to start his career, Uche burst onto the scene in 2022, combining with Matt Judon for half of the team’s 54 sacks last year. Mike Dugar of The Athletic reports that the Seahawks held serious interest in Uche “with talks going pretty deep,” but ultimately, landed Leonard Williams from New York instead. With Seattle filling their defensive line need with Williams, Uche will remain in New England.

As will, Jones and Elliott. It’s unclear how serious the Patriots were, if at all, about seeking trade partners for the two offensive contributors. The team will face a fifth-round option decision for Jones before next year, while Elliott will become a free agent at the end of the season.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC, starting out West:

  • It was a similar scene up in Mile High, where the Broncos decided not to move any of their potential trade assets due to a lack of serious interest. While the team reportedly did receive offers on players like receivers Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, they didn’t gauge the offers as good enough to move on, per Jordan Schultz of Bleacher Report. Mike Klis of 9NEWS relayed that the team is “confident in its group of players.” While it seemed the team may be willing to dive into a rebuild, beating a sick Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs may have convinced them otherwise.
  • Remaining in the West, the Raiders were unable to find a buyer for wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, to little surprise. Las Vegas gave Renfrow a big-money extension after his Pro Bowl season and has diminished his role severely ever since. So far this year, Renfrow has been on the field for over half of the Raiders’ offensive snaps in only three games. According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, the remaining guaranteed money in Renfrow’s contract prevented any teams from fully following through on their interest in the veteran receiver. With Renfrow staying put and the many sources shooting down reports of wide receiver Davante Adams wanting out of Vegas, according to Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Raiders stood pat at the trade deadline.