What would it take to unload Ezekiel Elliott to the AFC? A measly third-round pick.
That’s what Brian Martin of InsideTheStar.com recently proposed, sending the three-time Pro Bowl Dallas Cowboys running back to the Jacksonville Jaguars — and former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer — in exchange for the No. 65 overall selection in the 2021 draft.
Urban Meyer pretty much has the flexibility to do just about anything he wants with the Jaguars this offseason. Jacksonville not only leads the league in salary-cap space at a little over $74.5 million, but also have a dozen draft picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, including two in the 1st-round, two in the 2nd, one in the 3rd, and two in the 4th. As you can see, that’s quite a bit of flexibility to work with.
With that in mind, I did a little research to see just how plausible this fantasy trade is in actuality and the ramifications for the Dallas Cowboys if it indeed comes to fruition. So, let’s pretend Jacksonville is willing to send the Cowboys their lone 3rd-round pick (65th overall) in exchange for Zeke and they accept.
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Familiarity with Meyer
The newly-minted Jacksonville HC, Meyer led the Buckeyes while Elliott was starring in Columbus. The latter piled up nearly 4,000 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns across 35 games, earning a slew of collegiate honors: Big Ten Most Valuable Player, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, first-team All-Big Ten, and Ameche–Dayne Running Back of the Year.
Meyer, who was connected to the Cowboys’ head-coaching vacancy in January 2020, explained that Elliott was his favorite Buckeyes recruit among a laundry list of future NFL studs.
“I use him about every day, and not just for running back, but for every position group,” he said in 2017. “And the good news is, this last five-year run we’ve had, there’s plenty of great stories from Mike Thomas to Zeke Elliot and some others. … Joey Bosa was a little more ready-made. There’s some great storylines of guys we’ve seen develop, but Zeke might be the best of all.”
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Same as when Dallas was urged to ship Zeke to the New York Jets for a second-rounder, the notion of completing such a blockbuster deal is rooted in fantasy, not reality.
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 Jaguars 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.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL