The Dallas Cowboys could be looking at a reunion with one of their former players.
As proposed by CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr, one of running back Ezekiel Elliott’s potential landing spots is none other than the Cowboys. The three-time Pro Bowl running back was officially released by Dallas on Wednesday, March 15, after a seven-season tenure.
“Could the Cowboys actually bring Elliott back? They could at a restructured deal as a backup running back to Pollard, using him primarily in the red zone,” says Kerr. “Elliott has a lot more value in Dallas with a cheaper contract that isn’t a significant cap hit.”
Jerry Jones Calls Ezekiel Elliott’s Release a ‘Mutual’ One
Team owner Jerry Jones called it a “mutual” decision to part ways with Elliott in a statement released following the move.
“We have mutually agreed with Zeke that the best decision for everyone is that he will be able to experience free agency, and we can increase our flexibility and options as well,” said Jones. “This is one of the toughest parks of operating a team. Moments like this come, and extremely difficult decisions and choices are made.”
Why the Cowboys Cut Ezekiel Elliott
As noted by Kerr, Elliott’s contract was due to be massive for the 2023 season. Despite entering his age-28 season after his worst season of play, Elliott was due to be the second-highest paid running back in the league at a $10.9 million base salary and $16.7 million cap hit.
It’s clear that both sides couldn’t reach an agreement on a restructure that was fair to both sides. Michael Gehlken of The Dallas Morning News previously reported back in January that Elliott was indeed open to restructuring to remain a member of the Cowboys.
“The running back is willing to accept a pay cut this offseason, recognizing that a reduced salary can better fit him into the franchise’s plans, a person familiar with Elliott’s thinking told The Dallas Morning News on Monday afternoon,” said Gehlken on Jan. 23. “He is currently scheduled to earn a $10.9 million salary in 2023.”
The veteran running back also openly stated his desire to remain a member of the Cowboys following the team’s season-ending loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs.
“I’ve definitely thought about it,” said Elliott, back in January. “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 is coming off a season in which he ran for a career-low 3.8 yards per carry and just 876 rushing yards despite leading the Cowboys with 231 carries. However, he remains a potent red zone and short-yardage threat after running for 12 touchdowns last season, the eighth-best mark in the NFL.
Kerr mentions two other potential landing spots for Elliott, the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals. While the Bengals make sense considering Samaj Perine’s departure and their place as a Super Bowl contender, it might be hard to envision Elliott playing on potentially the worst team in the NFL in the Texans.
If Elliott’s market proves to be dry, a return to the Cowboys at a discounted rate isn’t out of the question. It all boils down to whether or not Dallas wants Elliott back, or would instead prefer to select a young running back in the draft to pair up with Tony Pollard.