Underscoring a cursed 2020 for the Dallas Cowboys is the poor return on investment they’re getting from star running back Ezekiel Elliott, whose contract was named by Bleacher Report as the Cowboys’ worst this year.
“Not all of the Cowboys’ woes this season can be attributed to Prescott’s absence after the signal-caller suffered a season-ending ankle fracture, but without him, the offense has plummeted to 26th in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average),” wrote BR’s Alex Ballentine.
“Elliott isn’t doing much to soothe the pain behind a beat-up offensive line. He’s averaging 1.8 yards after contact, which is 26th in the league. Tony Pollard, playing in the same offense, is averaging 1.9 and will only cost the team $841,945 this season and just over $1 million in each of the next two years.
Elliott is a great player, but a running back has to be transcendent to earn that kind of money. Elliott hasn’t proved to be that this year, and the club is going to need money to keep Prescott and fix the other holes on its roster.”
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The Cowboys acquiesced to Elliott following a protracted summer holdout in 2019, committing a record-setting $90 million in total money to the three-time Pro Bowler. He took home $50 million guaranteed — $28 million fully guaranteed at signing — and a $7.5 million signing bonus.
Zeke responded in kind with a 301-carry, 1,357-yard, 12-touchdown season, earning every penny as the Cowboys’ workhorse. The yards were the fourth-most in the NFL, while his TDs tied for fifth. He busted four rushes of at least 20 yards and 25.91 percent of his attempts went for first downs. Elliott averaged a respectable 4.5 yards per tote and cut his fumbles in half (3) from 2018.
Owner/general manager Jerry Jones looked like a genius for his massive investment in a devalued position.
Until he didn’t.
“Very few breakout runs, doesn’t look as strong anymore. Feels like he’s about 60 to 70 percent of what he was,” an anonymous NFL coach told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler this offseason, dubbing Elliott the sport’s 11th-best RB.
Those remarks have proved prophetic through nine weeks, as Elliott’s converted 150 attempts into 572 yards (3.8 YPC) and five TDs, adding 238 air yards and one score on 36 catches. He’s yet to cross the century mark in a game this season; his longest run went for 24 yards. Worst of all, Elliott has fumbled five times, losing four.
To Ballentine’s point, sophomore Tony Pollard is averaging a healthy 4.4 yards per tote, 31.91% first-down carry rate, and hasn’t coughed up the ball.
Some of Elliott’s dip in production and explosion can be attributed to Dak Prescott’s season-ending injury and numerous injuries along a bludgeoned offensive line.
But some cannot be easily rationalized away. Dallas is paying the 25-year-old to perform at an elite level and he isn’t fulfilling his end of the bargain. Thus, the ripping open of old wounds in regard to his albatross contract.
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