Ezekiel Elliott cannot live down his terminal case of butterfingers.
For context: Eight different RBs have logged one such season over that span.
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You can count on a single finger how many times Elliott’s recorded fewer than three fumbles in a given year amid his tenure in Dallas; that occurred during his suspension-ruined 2017 (1 fumble). The issue peaked the following season with six, dropped significantly in 2019 to three, and skyrocketed again to six in 2020.
It wasn’t just that Elliott coughed up the pigskin — it was as if, at times, he literally could do nothing but. The former league rushing champ lost four fumbles across a six-week period, culminating in his mid-October benching during a nationally televised defeat to Arizona.
“They did the right thing,” he said after the game, via USA Today. “I’m giving the ball away. I wasn’t helping the team. … I’m supposed to be a guy that this team can lean on when times get rough, and I just wasn’t that today.”
“I want to say that I’m sorry and this one’s on me and I just need to be better for this team,” he added. “When you’re fumbling, obviously teams are going to lock in on it and they’re going to go for it even more. … I’ve got to figure it out, man.”
Although apologetic, Elliott never atoned for the apparent lack of discipline, letting slip through his fingers yet another ball in a brutal Thanksgiving blowout loss to Washington, the final miscue punctuating a career-worst showing for the Cowboys’ $90 million investment.
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Apparently, the team was not scared off by the aforementioned statistic, because Elliott’s $12.4 million base salary for 2022 was fully guaranteed on March 21, per his contractual agreement.
Elliott is signed through 2026. Left unbothered, he’s slated to count $13.7 million ($9.6 million base salary plus a $4.1 million prorated bonus) against the Cowboys’ 2021 salary cap. He will pocket $9.6 million next season, his age-26 campaign, after which point his guarantees expire and his future — according to some — muddies.
“Although some are speculating that running back Ezekiel Elliott or receiver Amari Cooper could be traded soon due to Dak’s deal, the more likely outcome will be at least one more season with Cooper and Elliott before either or both are traded or released,” Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio wrote earlier this month.
“Elliott could be traded this year, with his base salary of only $9.6 million. A pre-June 1 trade, however, would trigger a $14.9 million cap charge for the Cowboys. It also would saddle his new team with the guaranteed salary of $12.4 million in 2022.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL