Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott Eyeing Eagles, Bengals, Jets

MARCH 24: Pouring water on the potential of an Elliott-to-Philadelphia move, John Clark of NBC Sports tweets that the Eagles have not yet talked with the three-time Pro Bowler about a contract. He adds that the reigning NFC champions are “happy” with their current situation in the backfield. That update illustrates the reality that Elliott’s preferred destinations represents a wish list on his part, more so than a shortlist of interested suitors.

MARCH 23: Although the Cowboys moved on from his lucrative contract last week, Ezekiel Elliott looks to have generated some interest elsewhere. He may have a new team before the end of the month.

Elliott wants to have a destination in place by the end of next week, and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes the two-time rushing champion has narrowed his choices to the Eagles, Bengals or Jets (Twitter link). It is unclear if each team has offered Elliott a deal, but each has some level of need in the backfield.

The Bengals have shown interest, Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. They have already lost Samaje Perine to the Broncos. Perine said (via the Denver Post’s Parker Gabriel) he chose Denver because of Sean Payton’s history using multiple running backs. Perine also looks to be insurance against Javonte Williams needing in-season time to finish up his ACL recovery.

The Bengals, however, wanted Perine back. They offered their Joe Mixon backup nearly identical terms to what he signed for in Denver, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Perine signed a two-year, $7.5MM deal with the Broncos. The Bengals have also stopped short of guaranteeing Mixon would be back. The seventh-year back’s $12MM-AAV extension runs through 2024 and calls for salaries north of $9MM this year and next. Elliott spelling Mixon might not be the plan here, with Conway pointing to this as an either/or situation.

As the Jets prepare to trade for Aaron Rodgers, they are moving aggressively to surround him with talent. Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman are en route, and the team moved up in the draft by unloading Elijah Moore. The Jets join the Broncos in having their starting running back — Breece Hall — coming off an October ACL tear. The Jets showed interest in ex-Rodgers teammate Jamaal Williams, but the breakthrough Lions back chose the Saints.

Philadelphia, which once signed DeMarco Murray after Dallas let him walk in 2015, has added Rashaad Penny in free agency. That deal is more of a flier, considering the ex-Seahawks first-rounder’s injury history, but the Eagles also re-signed longtime backup Boston Scott and roster Kenneth Gainwell. Elliott could be a piece of this equation, but it would be uncharacteristic for Howie Roseman — who was demoted during Chip Kelly’s 2015 in power — to splurge for a back. But Elliott moving from the Cowboys to their biggest divisional threat would obviously be a captivating storyline.

Elliott, 27, has seen his snap share drop in each of the past four seasons, with Tony Pollard showcasing himself as the more efficient member of the Cowboys’ backfield. With the latter seeing more early-down work, Elliott has seen his role shift to that of a short-yardage specialist; that, coupled with his general decline, helped account for his career-low numbers in 2022 (876 yards at an average of 3.8 per carry). Those figures made it obvious that he would become a cap casualty for Dallas this offseason.

Now, Elliott appears close to the beginning of the second chapter of his NFL career. A deal sending him to any of the three aforementioned teams would likely involve plenty of work on third down given his recent short-yardage history but also his proficiency in pass protection. In any case, a new contract would be far more modest than what he was due on his now former Cowboys accord. The Bengals, unlike the Eagles and Jets, currently reside in the top-10 in the league in cap space, so they could win out a potential bidding war. How much interest each team shows in Elliott will be a key storyline to follow in the secondary waves of free agency.

Adam La Rose contributed to this post.

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.

Buccaneers Interested In Signing Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott is set to hit the open market, putting the future of his Cowboys tenure very much in doubt. One of the teams which would be interested in adding the veteran running back is the Buccaneers, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

Dallas has, as expected, informed the two-time rushing champ that he will be released in a cost-cutting move. Given his decline in production in recent years, and the availability of numerous other free agent backs, Elliott could be hard-pressed to find himself at the heart of a considerable bidding war. Tampa will at least kick the tires on adding him to their backfield, though.

The Buccaneers hired Skip Peete as their running backs coach, after he served in the same capacity in Dallas. That would give Elliott, 27, a familiar face to work with should he find himself unable to work out a new, smaller, deal with the Cowboys and interested in heading to Tampa. In the event he were to do so, the former top-five pick would have competition for snaps.

Tampa Bay is moving on from veteran Leonard Fournette, something which he asked for given the uncertainty surrounding the team. The Buccaneers will have a very new look on offense with someone not named Tom Brady under center, and Dave Canales in place as the new offensive coordinator. The team ranked last in the league on the ground in 2022, so upgrading in that department is likely to be an offseason priority.

Elliott produced career-lows in rushing yards (876) and yards per carry (3.8) in 2022, as his role in the Cowboys’ offense shifted to that of a short-yardage specialist. A similar role would likely await him in Tampa Bay if the two parties were to agree to a deal, given the presence of former third-rounders Rachaad White and Ke’Shawn Vaughn. The Bucs are high on the latter deal, Stroud notes, but a high-profile addition could still be in the cards.

Cowboys To Release Ezekiel Elliott

2:21pm: Elliott will be designated as a post-June 1 cut, per Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (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.

Cowboys Plan To Either Extend Or Tag RB Tony Pollard

The thinking around the Cowboys’ running back situation has been largely counterintuitive so far this offseason. There has been a relative certainty that pending free agent Tony Pollard will remain a Cowboy, while Ezekiel Elliott, who is under contract through 2027, is not considered a guarantee to remain on the roster. A recent statement by Cowboys owner/president/general manager Jerry Jones supports one of those statements as he claims “Pollard isn’t going anywhere,” according to Jon Machota of The Athletic.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network was the first to report on the matter, tweeting that Dallas will franchise tag Pollard if the two parties are unable to reach a long-term agreement by the Tuesday deadline. Jones made the team’s intentions clear, confirming that, whether it’s an extension or a franchise tag, Pollard is “a big part” of the team’s plans.

Pollard has long excited Dallas with his potential as a franchise back. Since joining the team in 2019, Pollard has averaged more yards per attempt than Elliott in every season. While it felt like a possibility every year, in 2022, Pollard finally outgained Elliott 1,007 rushing yards to 876 rushing yards despite Elliott out-carrying Pollard by 38 carries. Pollard has averaged over five yards per carry in each of the past two seasons, while Elliott averaged 3.8 last year.

Elliott hasn’t been bad in Dallas while Pollard has started to reach his full potential, but after leading the league in rushing yards per game in each of his first three seasons and reaching at least 1,350 rushing yards in three of his first four years (was on pace in his sophomore season but only played 10 games), Elliott’s play has failed to reach such stellar heights as of late. After averaging a career-best 108.7 yards per game in his rookie year, Elliott has averaged 65.3, 58.9, and 58.4 yards per game in 2020, 2021, and 2022, respectively.

Despite the diminished results and the emergence of Pollard, Jones maintains that he “very much wants” Elliott to remain a Cowboy, according to Machota, stating that he believes the team can make it work financially. If that’s true, the Cowboys are likely going to need to do some financial gymnastics. Elliott is due $10.9MM in base salary next year with a cap hit of $16.72MM. A tag for Pollard would hit Dallas for another $10.1MM.

Elliott has reportedly voiced a potential willingness to take a pay cut in order to remain with the team. A new deal for Pollard would allow the Cowboys to backload the contract and make the first few years of his deal relatively affordable for the team, as well. There are many ways to make this work moving forward, but one has to wonder if it will be worth it. A pay cut for Elliott likely doesn’t relieve the Cowboys of a financial burden. Does Elliott still provide enough benefit on the field to warrant squeezing him into the salary cap?

According to Jones, the answer to that question is “yes.” The longtime Cowboys executive wants to keep both Pollard and Elliott around moving forward. He will have to work some salary cap magic in order to do so without hamstringing his franchise financially.

Cowboys Likely To Use Franchise Tag On Tony Pollard

The Cowboys have entered a few offseasons in recent years with moving parts. This year, Dallas’ running back position may be at the forefront there. Tony Pollard is on track for free agency, and Ezekiel Elliott‘s cap number appears untenable.

Pollard rocketed into the upper echelon of a crowded free agent running back class this past season, but signs continue to point to the Cowboys not allowing their Pro Bowler to reach the market. The Cowboys are strongly considering using their franchise tag on Pollard, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes. Taking it a step further, ProFootballNetwork.com’s Tony Pauline offers that the Cowboys will place the tag on the four-year veteran.

This emerged as a possibility late in the season, shortly after Pollard secured his first Pro Bowl invite. A fractured fibula and high ankle sprain interfered with Pollard participating in the various competitions this year’s Pro Bowl brought, but the former fourth-round pick is not at risk of missing time to start the 2023 season as a result. And the Cowboys want to keep the rising talent in the fold.

Pollard, who will turn 26 in April, can be cuffed for just $10.1MM — this year’s second-lowest tag number — and other teams will be considering tagging backs. Josh Jacobs appears a near-lock to be retained via a Raiders tag, while the Giants will need to consider a Saquon Barkley tag (though, Daniel Jones‘ contract looks to now supersede the Pro Bowl back’s). Pollard’s profile checks in a bit lower, but the Memphis product has been the Cowboys’ best back for multiple seasons now.

The Cowboys changed play-callers, parting ways with OC Kellen Moore to give Mike McCarthy the reins in Dallas for the first time. Pollard and CeeDee Lamb reside as the team’s top playmakers; the former totaled 1,378 scrimmage yards and tied with Elliott for a team-high 12 touchdowns last season. Pollard’s lack of wear and tear (631 career touches; 24th among backs since 2019) opens the door to a productive late-20s stretch.

To go along with this, the Cowboys will almost definitely need to adjust Elliott’s contract — or shed it from their payroll. Elliott said he would be amenable to a pay reduction to stay in Dallas. The two-time rushing champion, whom Jerry Jones has consistently praised despite declining production, is due to count $16.72MM on the Cowboys’ 2023 payroll. Many around the NFL believe the former No. 4 overall pick will accept a large pay decrease to stay in Dallas, Pauline adds. Were the Cowboys to make Elliott a post-June 1 cut, they could save $10.9MM on that date. But a window to a fifth Elliott-Pollard season remains open.

Latest On Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith

The Cowboys have plenty of pieces already in place which helped take the team to the divisional round of the playoffs this season, but key decisions lay ahead with several high-profile players. A number of Dallas’ longest-tenured offensive contributors face uncertain futures in 2023.

One of those is running back Ezekiel Elliott. The 27-year-old has long been thought to be a cut candidate, owing to his shrinking role in Dallas’ backfield behind Tony Pollard and his cumbersome salary and cap hit remaining on his current contract. The former top-five pick recently made clear his intention of at least considering a pay cut if it helped keep him with the Cowboys, something the team would be mutually agreeable to in principle.

Dallas owner Jerry Jones and EVP Stephen Jones indicated that they want Elliott to remain in the fold for 2023, but added that both parties will “have to talk business” to make such a scenario financially feasible (Twitter link via Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). Elliott has scheduled cap hits of at least $14.3MM for each of the four years remaining on his deal, though no guaranteed money remains on his pact.

The Cowboys’ decision with respect to Elliott will have to come against the backdrop of their desire to keep Pollard. The latter is a pending free agent, but could at least be retained for the 2023 season via the franchise tag ($10.1MM). Pollard is currently recovering from a broken leg, but the former fourth-rounder has firmly established himself as the more efficient member of Dallas’ halfback tandem. How much the team is willing to spend at the position will become a key factor in their offseason plans.

“We’re probably one of the top teams in the league already with what we pay running backs,” the younger Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News’ David Moore. “We have to make sure how we pay attention to this and how we spread it out, how we divide up the pie… Obviously, Tony is looking to make more money. So, we have to relook the whole things in terms of running back and what that looks like.”

Meanwhile, tackle Tyron Smith presents another interesting case for Dallas. The 32-year-old has played at an elite level when healthy, but he has missed 33 contests over the past three campaigns. His time in 2022 was limited by a torn hamstring, and he manned the right tackle spot upon his return. That decision came in part due to the absence of starting RT Terence Steelebut also the high-end play of first-round rookie Tyler Smith, drafted to one day succeed his namesake as the Cowboys’ blindside protector.

Tyron Smith has only one non-void year remaining on his contract, but with no guaranteed compensation due his $13.6MM salary could be in jeopardy. Smith also underwent another procedure this offseason (a scope, specifically), Hill tweets. When asked if the eight-time Pro Bowler would be back next season, Stephen Jones said “I have no reason to believe he won’t,” but injury concerns and other financial decisions could change that stance in the near future.

The Cowboys are currently one of 14 teams over the 2023 cap ceiling of $224.8MM. Many moves are soon to come as a result, so the futures of Elliott and Smith with their only NFL employer to date will be worth watching.

Ezekiel Elliott Would Consider Pay Cut To Stay With Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott had one of the least-productive seasons of his career in 2022, making his $10.9MM salary in 2023 potentially unpalatable. However, it sounds like the veteran running back is willing to take a pay cut if it means sticking with the Cowboys. A person familiar with the player’s thinking told Michael Gehlken of The Dallas Morning News that Elliott would consider reducing his salary if it meant he’d stick around Dallas.

[RELATED: Cowboys RB Tony Pollard Suffers Broken Leg]

As Gehlken notes, there’s no real rush to reduce Elliott’s salary, although it may be in the organization’s best interest to renegotiate a deal before the league year starts on March 15. Still, the fact that Elliott is even willing to hit the negotiating table should be a positive sign for everyone involved.

The Cowboys are equally interested in keeping their star running back. The reporter notes that Elliott is considered a “selfless teammate” who supported Tony Pollard‘s increased offensive role, and the veteran RB has also earned praise for his pass blocking ability and ball protection (Elliott has only one fumble over the past two years). The Cowboys also have a bit of leverage when it comes to negotiating, perhaps explaining why Elliott is so eager to discuss a reworked deal. As Gehlken notes, the Cowboys don’t have any guarantees tied to Elliott’s salary for the first time since they inked him to a six-year, $90MM extension in 2019. The team could theoretically cut Elliott and be left with ~$6MM dead cap hits in 2023 and 2024, although that route is naturally “believed to be counter to the club’s intentions.”

Further complicating negotiations will be the status of Pollard’s impending free agency. Following a productive fourth NFL season that saw him finish with 1,378 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns, Pollard was eyeing a sizable pay raise as a free agent this offseason. While a broken leg during this past weekend’s playoff loss may have cost him a bit of money on his next contract, there’s no denying that the Cowboys would have to budget if they hoped to maintain their RB depth chart. Reducing Elliott’s salary could provide the front office a bit of extra wiggle room when it comes to working out a new contract for Pollard.

Following the Cowboys’ loss to the 49ers last night, Elliott made it clear to reporters that we wants to stay in Dallas.

“I’ve definitely thought about it,” said Elliott (via Gehlken). “I want to be here. I don’t have a crystal ball; I can’t tell you the future. But I definitely want to be here.”

Elliott had the fewest touches of his career in 2022, but it didn’t lead to better production. The veteran’s 3.8 yards per touch marked a career-low, and he failed to hit 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the first time in his career. The RB especially struggled as the season went on, as the 27-year-old averaged 2.6 yards per carry (82 carries, 213 yards) in the final six games of the regular season.

Ezekiel Elliott To Return In Week 11

The Cowboys will welcome back their top running back after a two-week absence today. Ezekiel Elliott is suiting up against the Vikings after dealing with a knee injury.

Both Elliott and the team expressed an expectation that he would be be able to play last week against the Packers, but Dallas once again turned to Tony Pollard as their workhorse back during that contest. Now, though, they will have both members of their backfield duo available against Minnesota, allowing Elliott to pick up where he left off prior to the injury.

The 27-year-old had put up 78 and 81 rushing yards – his two highest figures so far this season – in two of his last three games before suffering the injury. Overall, Elliott has amassed 443 yards and four touchdowns in 2022, averaging 4.1 yards per carry (roughly in line with his previous two seasons, but short of his career average of 4.5).

Jerry Jones recently confirmed that Elliott would remain a focal point of the Cowboys’ offense upon his return, despite Pollard’s continued effectiveness. In the two games where he was the undisputed lead back, the former fourth-rounder totaled 246 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. His 6.0 yards per carry average is a career-high, and will no doubt boost his free agency value during the coming offseason.

It is at that point that Elliott will no longer have any guaranteed money remaining on the mega-extension he signed in 2019. That has led many to expect a notable move of some kind at the position for Dallas, with Elliott’s 2023 cap hit of $16.7MM representing a significant financial burden and an obstacle to retaining Pollard. In the immediate future, though, the pair will likely once again operate in a timeshare within Dallas’ offense as the team looks to get back on track against a Vikings defense which ranks mid-pack against the run.

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott Out For Week 10

NOVEMBER 13: Unsurprisingly given the team’s moves yesterday, Elliott will be inactive once again. That will leave Pollard with a heavy workload as the undisputed lead back for the second straight week.

NOVEMBER 12: Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is listed as questionable going into this Sunday’s game in Green Bay. The team’s practice squad elevations today may hint at which direction Elliott is trending, though. Dallas is elevating running back Qadree Ollison and guard Dakoda Shepley for tomorrow afternoon’s game.

Ollison has only been called up for one game this season and appeared sparingly, but Dallas’ season trends make the elevation a decision that we can read into a bit more. The Cowboys have had three running backs active in every game this year. Elliott’s questionable designation means that he could technically be active for the game, but if he is, it will be the first game of the year for the Cowboys that they would have four active running backs available to play.

If Elliott is unable to go, Tony Pollard will take the start and the majority of the work on offense. Rico Dowdle was the third back on the roster for much of the season behind Elliott and Pollard before being placed on injured reserve a month ago. With Dowdle out, undrafted rookie Malik Davis served as the third running back for the following two games. With Elliott out last week, the Cowboys were forced to give Davis his first offensive snaps behind Pollard as Ollison made his first appearance of the season as the third back.

If the trend continues, Ollison’s call up points to an inactive Elliott, leading to a second straight game of Pollard as the lead back with Davis and Ollison backing him up.