Although impractical to part ways this year, Mike Fisher of SI.com believes the NFL’s highest-paid running back “almost certainly” will not return to the team in 2023 as his $90 million contract is currently constructed.
“Zeke is on the books in 2022 for $18 million. There is no realistic way to say goodbye to that … until spring 2023, at which time Dallas could (pre-June 1) absorb a $6 million dead-money hit or (post-June 1) walk away with no financial penalty,” Fisher wrote on January 24.
“Book this: Zeke Will not be playing for this team under this existing contract in the 2023 season. He will almost certainly be cut and/or offered a new pay-cut deal.”
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Recapping 2021 Campaign
Appearing in all 17 games, Elliott converted 237 carries into 1,002 yards — his fourth time surpassing the 1,000-yard mark across six NFL seasons — and 10 rushing scores, averaging 4.2 yards per tote over 809 offensive snaps. He added 287 receiving yards and two TDs on 47 catches.
Elliott finished as Pro Football Focus‘ No. 32 RB among 62 qualifiers. The Pro Bowler’s numbers appear decent at first glance, but a deeper dive reveals a disappointing downturn related to his production.
“#Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott had 15 carries of 20+ more yards in 2016 (344 carries). He’s had 10 since 2019 (794 carries),” tweeted Marcus Mosher of Locked on Cowboys.
Elliott, 26, revealed after Dallas’ playoff loss to San Francisco that he’d been playing with a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, an injury dating back to October. Head coach Mike McCarthy confirmed the issue isn’t expected to hamper Elliott in 2022.
“The PCL injury was something that we feel will heal with rest,” McCarthy said earlier this month, via Fisher. “It says something about Zeke, not only his commitment but his toughness.”
McCarthy added: “He had a tremendous start to the season all the way up to Carolina. Carolina is when he was injured. (Before that) it was clearly the best he’s looked in my time here, physically.”
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Schultz to Get Tagged?
Elsewhere on the Cowboys’ roster, starting tight end Dalton Schultz, a pending unrestricted free agent coming off a breakout year, is a candidate to receive the franchise tag this offseason, ESPN’s Todd Archer reported.
“Schultz had 78 catches for 808 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2021 after putting up 63 for 615 and 4 in 2020. He has developed into a highly dependable option for Dak Prescott, but will he be out of the Cowboys’ price point?” Archer speculated. “Look at the contracts Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith received from New England; Schultz could get that much on the open market. Would the Cowboys have the type of room to keep him? Maybe. The franchise tag could be an option as well, but that might be earmarked for Randy Gregory.”