Ezekiel Elliott faces an uncertain future beyond this year with the Dallas Cowboys, and some believe that he could have a hard time finding a job if the team decides to cut ties with him.
Fox Sports talking head Skip Bayless is a vocal Cowboys supporter but said he was so encouraged by what he saw from Tony Pollard in his first start that he doesn’t feel Elliott’s services will be needed.
“Tony Pollard is special. He’s criminally underutilized. He’s now stuck as the backup running back — the clear No. 2 — to Ezekiel Elliott, who is a favorite, like a son, to Jerry Jones. He overpaid him and will not swallow his pride and let go of the fact that Zeke, to this day, is the highest-paid running back in Pro Football,” Bayless said on “Undisputed.” “He earned it for the first three years, then he got paid for what he had done past tense. His production just kept going down, down, down over the next three years.”
Elliott missed his first game of the season last Sunday with a knee injury, opening the door for Pollard to get more work as the lead back. The former fourth-round pick delivered, carrying the ball 13 times for 131 yards and three touchdowns.
Cowboys Face Decision on Elliott’s Future This Offseason
Elliott leads the Cowboys in carries this season with 109 for 443 yards and four touchdowns. His per-carry average is nearly two full yards less than Pollard.
“His best days are unfortunately behind him. I used to love him to death. I can’t even recognize him now,” Bayless said. “He went to Cabo to hold out [in 2019] and we saw video of him running in the sand to stay in shape, and now it still looks like he’s running in that sand.”
Elliott isn’t in a contract year by the normal definition, seeing as he is linked to the Cowboys through 2026 on his current lucrative deal. But the Cowboys could part ways with him in the offseason without suffering a huge penalty against the cap. After this season, he’ll have no guaranteed money left on his contract and the Cowboys might flinch at keeping him around at a $10.9 million salary with a $16.72 million cap hit.
“It’s beyond a contract year. You’re not playing for a new contract. You are playing to stay in this league,” Bayless said. “If he stays on the path he’s been on this year, and it goes just the way it’s been going, I’m not sure Zeke is going to be in the league next year.”
Cowboys Have Backed Elliott as Key Pillar of Team
While the numbers aren’t flashy, Elliott’s importance to the Cowboys has been stressed by Jones and others multiple times this season, including after Pollard’s breakout game.
“We go as Zeke goes. I really mean that. Zeke’s that important to this team. He’s as important to us as he was before the game. … There’s no argument,” Jones said when asked about Pollard getting more work after the performance. “Zeke’s ability to punish. Zeke’s ability to deliver it. What he does for us in pass protection. And, frankly, Zeke’s ability to make big plays are there. We’re going to go as Zeke goes. He’s that integral to our success this year.”
Elliott has been a fan of splitting the workload, saying he feels fresher with Pollard taking on a larger share of the work than in years past. Pollard is in the final year of his deal but the Cowboys could choose to restructure Elliott’s deal and attempt to keep both players around.