If Ezekiel Elliott wants to find a new home, he’ll have to come to terms that he’s not a lead back anymore, per his former Dallas Cowboys coach Skip Peete.
Peete coached the Cowboys’ running backs the last three seasons and spent lots of time with Elliott, seeing a good chunk of his downward trend from a highly-paid elite back to a free agent without many bites. Peete is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and believes that Elliott’s resistance to accepting a lesser role has played in his lukewarm free agency interest.
“I told him, ‘You’re going to play for $1 million and I think he was making like $12 (million),” Peete told the Tampa Bay Times. “Who’s gonna tell him that? I think that’s part of the reason he’s sitting out there. But if you’re going to play and be the second, third guy that’s kind of what the price is. That’s something that person has to make a decision if that’s what he wants to do.”
Elliott is coming off a year where he rushed for a career-low 876 yards. He did find the end zone a dozen times but he managed just 3.8 yards per carry. Peete still believes Elliott has some juice left — just in a smaller, more niche role.
“I think Zeke is still a good, quality running back,” Peete said. “He’s playing 50% of the snaps, so your numbers are not the same, that’s natural. But he still scored 12 touchdowns. He still caught the ball well. He still had numerous third-and-1, and short and goal-line places where he helped us win games. He’s still a physical load.”
Buccaneers Among Suitors For Ezekiel Elliott
The Bucs have been mentioned as a potential landing spot for Elliott as they look for a veteran backup for Rachaad White. The interest was reported by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, although he admitted there are hurdles, which Peete seemed to allude to with his comments on Elliott.
“The Bucs could be an option for him,” Fowler said on Sportscenter. “I’m told they’re looking for an RB2 behind Rachaad White. The problem could be the money. … Bucs probably wouldn’t want to spend all that much, but could be an option there.”
There’s also a chance that Elliott returns to Dallas on a smaller deal. While unlikely, the Cowboys have been resistant to completely slamming the door on a reunion.
“Ship has not sailed,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after the draft, via the team website. “We haven’t made a decision. We’ve obviously drafted a running back, a little different style than Zeke, but it doesn’t change. … For us, as far as our interest in Zeke, nothing we did today changes that.”
Ezekiel Elliott Had a Wishlist of Teams he Wanted to Play For
Earlier in his free agency, a wishlist of teams Elliott wanted to play for went public via a report from Adam Schefter.
“Cowboys’ RB Ezekiel Elliott has narrowed down his options about where to play to the Eagles, Jets and Bengals, and he would like to make his decision about where to sign by the end of next week,” Schefter tweeted in late March.
None of those teams showed a ton of interest in Elliott and have since shored up their plans at running back through free agency, trade and the draft. Meanwhile, Elliott remains without a team and his future is uncertain.