How’s this for an offseason splash?
In projecting the biggest NFL trades to come in 2021, Bleacher Report columnist Chris Roling urged the Dallas Cowboys to send running back Ezekiel Elliott to the New York Jets for a second-round draft pick.
Roling posited his argument on the basis that this would be a financially-driven move for both parties.
The Cowboys have a top-10 projected cap number in 2021, but that’s before surrendering all the leverage to star quarterback Dak Prescott on a new deal. Throwing six years and $90 million at Ezekiel Elliott and not extending corner Byron Jones is a good example of why the Cowboys defense has been the worst in the NFL all year.
Elliott has only gained 832 yards on a 3.9 average this year and has five touchdowns with five lost fumbles. Promising backup Tony Pollard has managed 339 yards and two scores with a 4.5 average on 136 fewer attempts.
If the Cowboys want to unload Elliott and get some cap wiggle room, a team like the New York Jets would make plenty of sense. The winless Jets sit with the second-most projected cap space in 2021 at more than $81 million and figure to use the No. 1 pick on a quarterback like Trevor Lawrence.
Those Jets could send a second-rounder to the Cowboys for Elliott, who they can use to absorb workhorse punishment while a rookie learns on the fly. The front office could then use the out in Elliott’s contract after the 2022 season.
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Ramifications of Zeke Trade
Elliott received $50 million guaranteed on the six-year, $90 million extension he signed in 2019. Technically under contract through 2026, he’s scheduled to pocket $9.6 million in base salary next season, after which point his guarantees expire.
If the Cowboys decide to move on, they might have to pull the trigger sooner than later, as Elliott’s $12.4 million salary for 2022, his age-27 campaign, will become guaranteed if he’s on the roster beyond March 17, 2021, the fifth day of the new league year.
Unless the Jets agree to shoulder a majority of his contract, or Elliott agrees to restructure to facilitate the transaction, this trade is unlikely to materialize. According to OverTheCap.com, Dallas would absorb a cap-killing $24.5 million dead-money hit, with $10.8 million in savings, by moving Elliott pre- or post-June 1.
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Radio Host Forecasted 2022 Elliott Release
This is the second indication in as many months — albeit it’s outside speculation — that Elliott’s ouster is fairly imminent. 105.3 The Fan’s Mike Bacsik doesn’t believe the team will pull the trigger so quickly, however.
Bacsik took to the airwaves in November and estimated the Cowboys releasing Elliott in 2022, an admission by the front office, he said, that mistakenly invested in a devalued position — and an “average running back.” Below are his comments via 105.3 The Fan:
“I think when we get to the end of the 2021 season, the Cowboys will look to release Ezekiel Elliott. … I think they’re going to look at their financial aspect because I think they are committed to Dak [Prescott] being the quarterback of the future. And I think they’re going to just look at financially and look at his production and go, ‘Guys, it might be best to take a hit now and open up money for later.’
“I think we’re going to start hearing whispers out of Frisco that there’s a possibility that the Cowboys are going to release Elliott after the 2021 season. And it will be a financial hit. But I think they’re looking at it going, ‘We can’t keep paying this every year to a guy who is at best an average running back.’”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL