Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has major questions surrounding him on his future.
As the Cowboys enter the 2023 offseason, there are questions surrounding whether Elliott will be back in Dallas for an eighth season. He is technically under contract through the 2025 season but there is a possible out in the contract that would let the Cowboys release Elliott with an $11.8 million dead cap hit.
Elliott — who is well aware of the question surrounding his future in Dallas — gave a brutally honest take on whether he’ll be back with the Cowboys in 2023 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 gathered by his locker.
Ezekiel Elliott’s Cowboys Future May Be Impacted by Tony Pollard
Elliott ended up playing the entire second half of the Cowboys’ 19-12 loss following running back Tony Pollard’s severe injury toward the end of the first half. Pollard — a 2022 Pro Bowler — ended up suffering a broken fibula that will require a recovery timeline of four to five months, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer.
Despite an opportunity to take over the game with Pollard sidelined, Elliott failed to do so, rushing for just 26 yards on 10 carries. Archer pointed out that Elliott’s latest game continued a trend in which the former Pro Bowl running back is simply lacking explosiveness.
“Without Pollard, the Cowboys were left to rely on Ezekiel Elliott and rookie Malik Davis,” Archer wrote. “Elliott had not averaged 4 yards per carry in the previous five games and averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per carry this season, playing a good portion of the year with a knee brace to protect a sprained medial collateral ligament. Davis had 161 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries in the regular season.”
It’s clear Dallas’ offense took a major hit when arguably their top offensive playmaker was sidelined for the rest of the game.
The Pollard injury is significant because it changes how the Cowboys may view the value of Elliott moving forward. His salary cap hit for the 2023 season is obviously a major issue considering he’s on a stark decline. His $16.7 million cap hit for the 2023 season ranks second among all running backs.
If the Cowboys can restructure Elliott’s contract, they will likely bring him back. Though Pollard could be healthy by the time training camp resumes, he’s coming off of a serious injury and has never proved to be a full-time back. Over the course of his entire career, Pollard has carried the ball over 15 times in a single game just twice in his career.
Team Owner Jerry Jones Is a Big Fan of Ezekiel Elliott
Furthermore, Pollard is not a short-yardage and goal-line back — Elliott is. Team owner Jerry Jones previously stressed Elliott’s value during his two-game absence at the midway point of the season shortly after Pollard’s 131-yard, three-touchdown outburst in a win over the Chicago Bears.
“There’s no argument,” Jones said back in October. Zeke’s ability to punish, Zeke’s ability to deliver, Zeke’s ability, what he does for us in pass protection, and, frankly, Zeke’s ability to make big plays are there, and we’re going to go where Zeke goes. He’s that integral to our success.”
Elliott may not be certain regarding his future in Dallas, but expect the Cowboys to make an attempt to bring their star back for another season under a restructured deal.