The Dallas Cowboys could move on from two former Pro Bowlers in the same offseason.
As proposed by David Moore of The Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys could cut both running back Ezekiel Elliott and offensive tackle Tyron Smith in the same offseason. Both Elliott and Smith are due to earn sizable cap hits for the 2023 season, with Elliott earning $16.7 million — second-highest among all running backs — and Smith earning $17.6 million — fourth-biggest cap hit on the Cowboys.
“Elliott and Smith are two of the more accomplished and decorated players in a Cowboys uniform,” wrote Moore. “They have become associated with this team. That doesn’t mean they’ll be back next season.”
As Moore wrote, team owner Jerry Jones said that he wants both veterans back for the 2023 season. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be back, especially considering the Cowboys will have two key free agents — running back Tony Pollard and tight end Dalton Schultz — that they’ll attempt to re-sign this offseason.
Moore warned that the the futures of both Elliott and Smith are still up for evaluation.
“The evaluation of every player on the roster is up next at The Star,” says Moore. “Then the focus shifts to contractual considerations and where those players fit going forward. It’s a long way from wanting Elliott and Smith back to saying it will happen. No one has made that declaration.”
While the Cowboys will obviously try to bring back both stars — likely under restructured deals — there is the possibility that both players have each played their last game in Dallas.
Ezekiel Elliott’s Production Continues to Decline
Elliott remains an integral part of the Cowboys’ offense, but his declining efficiency is cause for concern. The 27-year-old averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per carry and caught a career-low 17 passes. By comparison, he averaged 4.2 yards per carry and caught 47 passes during the 2021 season.
Since entering the league in 2016, Elliott has the more carries of any running back in the NFL with 1,881 attempts. The next-closest running back is the Tennessee Titans’ Derrick Henry at 1,750 carries.
Despite his declining efficiency, Elliott remains the team’s starting back. That’s unlikely to change, even if Dallas re-signs Pollard. Despite Pollard clearly being a more effective playmaker — 5.9 yards per touch compared to Elliott’s 3.9 yards per touch — Elliott is the bell cow, having out-carried Pollard, 231-to-193.
The veteran running back made it clear he wants to return to Dallas following the team’s playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
“I want to be here. I don’t have a crystal ball, can’t you tell the future. But I definitely want to be here,” he told reporters following the game.
Tyron Smith Is Struggling to Stay Healthy
As far as Smith is concerned, injuries have played a huge role in the eight-time Pro Bowler’s demise. The 32-year-old has appeared in just 17 games over the past three seasons, meaning he’s been unavailable two of every three games since Mike McCarthy became head coach.
Upon returning from a torn hamstring in December, Smith wasn’t the same tackle he was before. While lining up at right tackle, Smith posted a 59.8 offensive grade and 64.1 pass-blocking grade, according to Pro Football Focus. For perspective, Smith posted a 91.4 offensive grade and 88.0 pass-blocking grade during the 2021 season.
When at his peak, there isn’t a single lineman on the Cowboys’ offensive line that is better than Smith. But considering Smith has dealt with injuries for three consecutive seasons and is about to turn 33 years old during the 2023 season, it’s fair to wonder if his best days are behind him.
In an ideal scenario, Dallas will welcome back both of their star veterans. But there’s the very possible scenario that both veterans could be cut by the Cowboys.