Ezekiel Elliott

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.

Teams Calling Patriots On Ezekiel Elliott

Sitting at 2-6 on the season, the Patriots are expected to be sellers ahead of this afternoon’s deadline. That has led to a short list of trade candidates emerging, but a new name can now be added to the mix.

Teams are calling New England to inquire about running back Ezekiel Elliott, Jordan Schultz of Bleacher Report notes. Interested parties would of course be teams on the lookout for depth additions at the RB spot, a position which is not expected to see much (if any) movement today. Titans All-Pro Derrick Henry is the top backfield prize, but signs have increasingly pointed to him remaining in Tennessee.

Elliott saw his seven-year Cowboys tenure come to an end this offseason, with Dallas making the expected decision of releasing him. That move wiped out the remaining, non-guaranteed years on his deal and began a long-running free agent period. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones declined to fully close the door on a reunion at a much lower rate, but talks on that front never truly took off. Dallas has publicly committed to standing pat with its roster overall, but also the RB position in particular.

Elliott ultimately signed with the Patriots in August. His one-year deal worth up to $6MM is incentive-laden, and any acquiring team would only be on the hook for a prorated portion of his $1.55MM base salary. The 28-year-old has seen a career-low 37% snap share in New England, and that limited usage has produced 260 rushing yards (on an average of 3.9 yards per carry) and a pair of touchdowns. Elliott has eclipsed 36 rushing yards once in eight games.

The Dolphins and Ravens have been named as teams to watch on the RB market, despite their respective success on the ground so far this season. Both 6-2 outfits should nevertheless be considered buyers, and adding Elliott would provide experienced depth ahead of a playoff run. With roughly three hours remaining until the deadline, New England will remain worth watching closely.

Ezekiel Elliott-Cowboys Reunion Did Not Gain Extensive Traction

For months, rumors persisted about a potential Cowboys-Ezekiel Elliott reunion. The team did not make a significant addition behind Tony Pollard, with the Ronald Jones move preceding a PED suspension and an eventual release. But Elliott did not appear close to coming back to Dallas.

Ahead of the Patriots’ Week 4 Cowboys matchup, the two-time rushing champion described the talks about a return at a reduced rate as “minimal,” via The Athletic’s Jon Machota. Elliott ended up in New England on a one-year, $3MM contract, one that came together during training camp.

Jerry Jones still hoped Elliott would come back, Machota adds, which points to the the Cowboys making an offer. A report tying Elliott to a league-minimum-level deal surfaced in August. Rumors about an Elliott return came up in late March, late April and mid-June. By August, however, the Cowboys were moving in a different direction. Mike McCarthy said during training camp he did not want Elliott taking reps away from the Cowboys’ contingent of younger backups behind Pollard. Soon after, Zeke signed an incentive-laden deal with the Patriots.

Elliott dead money will remain on Dallas’ books through 2024, with the team using a post-June 1 cut designation to move on in March. The Cowboys are not believed to have submitted a specific pay-cut number to Elliott’s camp prior to the release, which may have complicated a reunion. Elliott, 28, will face his former team Sunday. The new Rhamondre Stevenson backup will enter the Week 4 game with 143 scrimmage yards on 34 touches.

The Cowboys have used Rico Dowdle as Pollard’s top backup. The fourth-year back, who did not log any carries in 2021 or ’22, enters Week 4 with 113 scrimmage yards on 21 touches. Pollard has totaled an NFL-most 24 red zone carries — 10 more than the next-closest player — but is sitting on two rushing touchdowns. The Cowboys used Elliott as their primary goal-line back for seven years; both he and Pollard scored 12 TDs in 2022. Pollard, of course, was far more explosive than Dallas’ starter last season and became the clear priority this offseason.

With Pollard on a $10.1MM franchise tag, the Cowboys were never expected to bring back Elliott at a number close to his original 2023 base salary ($10.9MM). Elliott did well for himself by signing a six-year, $90MM extension in September 2019. Running backs no longer command that kind of money, even as the salary cap has climbed since that deal came to pass. No back has even signed a $10MM-per-year pact since the Browns extended Nick Chubb (three years, $36.6MM) in July 2021.

Patriots To Sign Ezekiel Elliott

AUGUST 16: Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reports that Elliott’s base compensation actually consists of $1.55MM in salary and a $600K signing bonus. To no surprise, much of the maximum $6MM value is tied to incentives for availability, playing time and production.

Elliott will earn $50K weekly in roster bonuses, and he can see further payments based on scrimmage yards totals. Bonuses in that regard are staggered at $300K increments, and can reach up to $1.5MM in the unlikely event he records 1,475 yards of offense (which would be his highest total since 2019). Playing time incentives are also included, and they max out at the 70% snap threshold, something Elliott is likewise doubtful to reach serving as Stevenson’s backup. As a result, the three-time Pro Bowler can be expected to see modest earnings in 2023 as he aims to build his 2024 free agent value.

AUGUST 14: The first major domino on the veteran running back market has fallen. Ezekiel Elliott is expected to sign with the Patriots on a one-year deal with a maximum value of $6MM, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports (Twitter link). ESPN’s Adam Schefter adds that the pact includes a base salary of $3MM and a $1MM signing bonus.

For some time now, New England has seemed to be the most logical destination for the former rushing champion. Elliott’s only official visit was with the Patriots, though the team has also shown interest in other veteran backs. The parties will now enter into an agreement as he looks to rebuild his value in a backup role. Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets that New England’s offer had been on the table for a matter of weeks, but it was “tweaked” yesterday.

The Patriots were connected for a stretch with Dalvin Cook, but finances led them to turn their attention to Elliott. Still, the team was believed to have a firm price point in mind which it was not prepared to exceed in a buyer’s market at the RB position. The same reportedly held true for other interested parties. Aside from Elliott, New England also kicked the tires on Leonard Fournette and Darrell Henderson; the latter two will need to look elsewhere for an opportunity given today’s news.

Elliott saw his seven-year Cowboys tenure come to an expected end when he was released in a cost-shedding move. A return to Dallas to serve as a low-cost compliment to Tony Pollard remained a possibility to varying degrees during the offseason. The most recent update on that front, though, indicated a reunion was unlikely. Elliott, 28, will now join a new NFL team for the first time in his career.

The Patriots saw 2021 fourth-rounder Rhamondre Stevenson emerge as a capable lead back last season. He recorded 1,461 scrimmage yards and six total touchdowns, figures he will aim to replicate in 2023. The team was thin on experience behind Stevenson, though, and Elliott will provide a boost in that regard. The latter averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per carry last season as he was used increasingly as a short-yardage specialist. Doing so in New England could make him an effective secondary option in the ground game, though he also has considerable starting experience should Stevenson miss time.

Improvements through the air are expected for New England with quarterback Mac Jones entering his third year, new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien in place and a number of alterations having been made to the pass-catching corps. Production in the running game will still be a crucial element of the team’s ability to return to the postseason, however, and Elliott will have a role in that regard. Succeeding in it will help his new team along with his free agent value come next offseason.

Latest On Ezekiel Elliott’s Market

The Ezekiel Elliott market appeared to be heating up earlier this month, but the veteran running back remains unsigned. While there haven’t been any reports regarding Elliott’s asking price, his continued free agent status could be tied to underwhelming offers.

[RELATED: Latest On Patriots’ Interest In RBs Ezekiel Elliott]

According to Mike Giardi of Boston Sports Journal (via Twitter), potential suitors “would prefer to pay the bare minimum” for Elliott’s services. In fact, Giardi hears that one team wants to sign the running back after Week 1 so they can avoid any guarantees. The veteran was tied to a $10.9MM base salary and an untenable $16.72MM cap number in 2023 before he was released by the Cowboys.

Elliott has only had an official visit with the Patriots, but throughout the offseason, teams like the Buccaneers, Eagles, Bengals, and Jets have been tied to the RB. Most recently, we heard that the Cowboys would still consider bringing back their long-time player, although that scenario continues to appear unlikely.

We heard yesterday that despite New England’s $17MM in cap space, the front office has a clear price point that they’re not prepared to surpass. Based on today’s rumblings, it sounds like the Patriots would only be bidding against themselves at this point, assuming they’re willing to bring Elliott in ASAP.

The Patriots hosted Elliott along with several other established backs a few weeks ago, and despite the RB leaving New England without a deal, the organization remains “highly interested” in him. With Damien Harris having left for Buffalo, the Patriots lack established depth behind Rhamondre Stevenson. Based on last night’s preseason game, 2022 fourth-round pick Pierre Strong is currently in the lead for the RB2 spot. The Patriots also gave a look at 2022 sixth-round pick Kevin Harris and former UDFA J.J. Taylor.

Latest On Patriots’ Interest In RBs Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette

Much of the attention on the free agent market is aimed at Dalvin Cook, but a number of other veteran running backs remain unsigned. Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette are among them, despite the fact they each visited the Patriots last month.

Elliott has received little interest since his Cowboys release, and a return to Dallas (while still possible) continues to appear unlikely. The Patriots could use the former rushing champion as a high-end backup to Rhamondre Stevenson, and Elliott is believed to be New England’s target rather than Cook in that regard. Finances are a barrier which has yet to be overcome on the Elliott front, however.

Outkick’s Armando Salguero notes that New England has a price point which it is not prepared to surpass to sign Elliott. The Patriots currently have just over $17MM in cap space, so they could afford to outbid a competing team if that becomes necessary. For now, though, they will wait for Elliott to make a decision on his future in the aftermath of an encouraging visit to Foxborough.

The same is not true of Fournette’s trek to New England. Selguero adds that the former Jaguar and Buccaneer’s conditioning was not impressive when he worked out with the Patriots. Fournette dealt with weight issues ahead of last season, one in which he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and ceded playing time to Rachaad White. In the aftermath of Tom Brady‘s retirement, Fournette asked for and was granted his release from Tampa Bay.

That move has left him on the open market into August, with little interest shown outside of New England. The Patriots have kept their options open regarding a veteran RB addition, having also worked out Darrell Henderson. At the moment, Elliott seems the likeliest move at the position, but the plethora of backs still available certainly makes this a buyer’s market with preseason set to begin around the league.

Latest On RBs Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook

A number of notable names remain on the open market into August, especially at the running back position. The futures of both Ezekiel Elliott and Dalvin Cook remain uncertain, despite the overlapping interest shown in them in some cases.

Elliott has been available since his expected Cowboys release, but he has not seen much of a market after his career-worst performance in 2022. A reunion in Dallas has been floated on a number of occasions during the offseason, with owner Jerry Jones publicly keeping the door open to a deal at a highly reduced rate. The latest reports on the matter, however, pointed to Dallas focusing more on its younger options behind franchise-tagged starter Tony Pollard.

In spite of that, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes that the Cowboys are still in the running to re-acquire Elliott (subscription required). The team which appears more likely to sign the former rushing champion, though, remains the Patriots. New England hosted Elliott – after conversations between Bill Belichick and Stephen Jones – as one of several established backs they have kicked the tires on, and Howe reports the team is still “highly interested” in him. A agreement sending Elliott to New England would come as much less of a surprise than one with Cook.

The latter has been connected to every AFC East team except the Bills this offseason, including passing interest shown by the Patriots. Howe adds that New England is “almost certainly not going in that direction” with respect to signing the ex-Vikings starter. Cook’s only free agent visit to date has been with the Jets, a team which (like the Patriots) already has an established No. 1 option in the backfield.

The situation is different regarding the Dolphins, but they are not believed to view Cook, a Miami native, as a necessity. That could point Cook back in the direction of the Jets, a team which is in win-now mode as the Aaron Rodgers era is set to begin. Cook is thought to be looking for guaranteed money across two seasons, but no team has appeared enthusiastic about making such a commitment. Elliott, likewise, is unlikely to secure any long-term deal while being brought in to serve as a high-end backup.

Elliott’s and Cook’s fates are not doubt linked, and the RB dominoes will likely fall in quick succession once one makes a decision on their next landing spot. The Cowboys, Patriots and Jets are among the teams to watch closely, but there is still little clarity with respect to how willing those clubs, and others, are to make a sizeable commitment at the position.

Cowboys Unlikely To Re-Sign Ezekiel Elliott?

As most teams’ training camps head into their second week, Ezekiel Elliott remains unsigned. The two-time rushing champion has been connected to a few teams, but his main connection is not generating momentum.

The Cowboys saw offseason pickup Ronald Jones incur a two-game suspension Monday, and they are otherwise thin on experience behind Tony Pollard. But Elliott does not look to be in the Cowboys’ current plans, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill, who notes a reunion with the longtime starter is not a consideration at this point.

[RELATED: Cowboys Offered Pollard Long-Term Deal]

Mike McCarthy said the team does not want Elliott to take reps from its younger collection of backups. Malik Davis, Rico Dowdle and 5-foot-6 sixth-rounder Deuce Vaughn comprise that contingent. With Jones not exactly a lock to make the team regardless of his suspension, the Cowboys will be closely monitoring the progress of the aforementioned trio.

McCarthy’s comments regarding the backfield, however, came as Jerry Jones once again (via the Dallas Morning News’ Calvin Watkins) left the door open to a Zeke-Cowboys reunion. The prospect of the Cowboys bringing Elliott back at a significantly reduced rate surfaced in March, and the topic came up after the draft in April and again in June.

I’ve been very consistent,” Jones said. “We’re just kind of see how it plays and we’re certainly haven’t closed the door. I wouldn’t know right now, what adjustments we might make, but just working ahead I don’t want to rule it out.”

Elliott, 28, has visited the Patriots. Prior to meeting with Elliott, Bill Belichick consulted Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones, Ed Werder of ESPN.com tweets. Belichick contacted Jones for a reference of sorts. The Patriots have looked into Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Darrell Henderson but have not made an addition. They have also discussed a meeting with Dalvin Cook, but as of now, the Jets have secured the only summit with the top back available. Cook may be zeroing in on the Jets, though with no deal agreed to, the Pats and Dolphins still have time to up their offers.

While Elliott has undeniably slowed down since his initial NFL breakthrough, he still matched Pollard’s 12 touchdowns last season and has frequently generated praise from Jerry Jones. But the former No. 4 overall pick has logged 2,186 touches — 309 more than any other active back. Elliott did well to fetch that six-year, $90MM extension from the Cowboys in 2019. Playing four years on the deal gave him vital security. Although the Ohio State product may well have a chance to play an eighth season soon, this year’s grim running back developments do not have teams eager to add him.

The Cowboys growing dissatisfied with the Davis-Dowdle-Vaughn group as camp progresses could reopen a door for Elliott, considering how many times the topic of a reunion has come up this since the March separation.

Patriots Host RB Ezekiel Elliott

6:25: Elliott departed the Patriots’ facility without a deal in place, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). He adds that interest exists on both sides, however, which is corroborated by The Athletic’s Jeff Howe. The latter tweets that Elliott discussed contract terms with New England today, adding that the two-time rushing champion is likely close to deciding on his next destination. Since they also have interest in Elliott, the Jets could be a player in this situation, Howe notes, depending on how they fare in the Cook sweepstakes. Both veteran backs could find new homes in the very near future.

9:22am: The Patriots have been connected to a number of free agent running backs, and now the team is set to host one of the biggest remaining names on the market. According to ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter), Ezekiel Elliott will visit New England today. Jordan Schultz was first with the news (via Twitter).

Elliott hasn’t generated a whole lot of reported interest since getting cut by the Cowboys earlier this offseason. He was briefly connected to the Eagles, Bengals, and Jets, but obviously no deal materialized. There were also rumors that he could simply land back in Dallas, but it sounds like the Cowboys want to evaluate their in-house options before making any additional moves at the position.

Despite starting 14 of his 15 games in 2022, Elliott struggled running the ball. His 3.8 yards-per-rushing-attempt marked a career-low, and despite generating 231 carries, he also finished with a career-low 876 rushing yards. On the flip side, the veteran RB proved that he’s still got a nose for the end zone, scoring 12 touchdowns.

The 28-year-old is only a year removed from his last 1,000-yard rushing season, and while he’ll probably never come close to replicating his 77-catch season in 2018, he still averaged 51 catches per season between 2019 and 2021. Plus, Elliott proved that he can still be effective in other parts of the game, with the running back earning the second-best positional grade for run blocking, per Pro Football Focus. In other words, while Elliott certainly started to show signs of decline last season, it might be a bit too early to write him off entirely.

Rhamondre Stevenson topped 1,400 yards from scrimmage for the Patriots in 2022, and with Damien Harris having left for Buffalo, the third-year back should see an even bigger role in 2023. However, behind Stevenson, the Patriots lack experienced depth. The team does have pass-catching veteran Ty Montgomery (who suffered an injury during practice this week, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss on Twitter), but the team is otherwise eyeing backup options like 2022 fourth-round pick Pierre Strong, 2022 sixth-round pick Kevin Harris, and former UDFA J.J. Taylor.

That lack of depth could explain why the organization has been connected to a number of free agent running backs. Most notably, the Patriots have been mentioned as a potential suitor for Dalvin Cook, although it remains to be seen if they’d pay the Pro Bowler his desired salary. The Patriots also recently hosted veteran free agents Leonard Fournette and Darrell Henderson.