Cowboys Make Change to Ezekiel Elliott’s Contract, Future in Dallas

Ezekiel Elliott

Getty Ezekiel Elliott

Pressed up against the salary cap, the Dallas Cowboys bought themselves some breathing room Friday, August 27.

ESPN’s Field Yates first reported that Dallas has restructured the contract of running back Ezekiel Elliott. The team converted $8.6 million of Elliott’s $9.6 million base salary into a signing bonus, creating $6.8 million in 2021 cap space.

The Cowboys — who confirmed the maneuver — now sit approximately $12 million under the cap.

“Dallas adds more flexibility as it heads into the season and with roster cut downs around the corner,” Yates added.

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What The Restructure Means

In the long term, it’s more unlikely the Cowboys move on from Elliott, who’s entering year three of his six-year, $90 million pact. Zeke’s 2022 base salary ($12.4 million) previously became guaranteed, and this alteration does little but kicks the can further down the road — until 2023 or beyond.

“Elliott’s 2022 cap number will now increase by $1.72 million to $18.22 million next year,” explained Jason Fitzgerald of “His dead money increased by $6.88 million but because his salary for 2022 is already guaranteed that was of no concern for Dallas in making this decision. Elliott will now cost $11.86 million to release in 2023 which is the year the salary cap is expected to return to more normal levels.”

In the short term, Dallas is not expected to allocate their newfound funds toward an outside player acquisition, such as a trade or free-agent signing, nor extend an in-house candidate, such as wide receiver Michael Gallup, according to media reports.

“This is likely more about carrying over unused cap space to 2022 not adding a free agent of note or a trade,” ESPN’s Todd Archer tweeted.

“I don’t think teams make moves like this for overly specific reasons,” echoed David Helman of the team’s official website. “They’ll need space for any number of things that might crop up. Hard to predict it specifically a full season ahead of time, but they know they’ll need the money for one reason or another.”

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Jerry Talks Zeke’s ‘Subpar’ Season

Elliott, who’s twice captured the NFL rushing title, is coming off a personal-worst 2020 campaign during which he set career lows in ground yards (979), yards per carry (4.0), yards per game (65.3), and carries per game (16.3).

Although the 26-year-old vows a return to prior form — he arrived at training camp weighing 216 pounds, down 10 from last season — Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones hasn’t forgotten about the poor return on his investment. And he isn’t letting Elliott forget, either.

“When you look at everything, it’s unfair to put that real hammer on Zeke that he had a subpar year,” Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan, via ESPN’s Ed Werder. “He had a subpar year all right, but it wasn’t necessarily because he was subpar as some might express.”

READ NEXT: Mike McCarthy, Stephen Jones Caught in Curious Ezekiel Elliott Conversation

Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL