For some reason, the idea of Ezekiel Elliott being traded within the foreseeable future isn’t going away. In fact, following Dak Prescott’s historic contract signing, whispers of Elliott’s imminent departure from the Dallas Cowboys are only growing louder.
“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 Tuesday.
“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. (It’s hard not to at least wonder whether former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is thinking about trading for Elliott; however, the Jaguars have a much cheaper option on the roster in James Robinson.)
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Responding indirectly to Florio’s theory, Mike Fisher of CowboysSI.com reported “there is no present Cowboys plan to ‘trade Zeke.’ There is the consideration of a restructure that might extend his time with Dallas.”
“The #Cowboys are aware – were aware before the rest of us – of the Dak cap ramifications (restructures) with Amari, Tank, Zack, maybe Zeke. Please return to your homes,” Fisher tweeted.
NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported last week that Dallas plans to redo multiple players’ contracts to create additional 2021 salary-cap space. Slater named left tackle Tyron Smith, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and linebacker Jaylon Smith as prime restructure candidates.
The Cowboys saved roughly $15 million by locking down Prescott, who will count $22.2 million against the cap compared to the $37.7 million figure he would have carried under the exclusive franchise tag.
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Impact of Zeke Restructure
We already know the Cowboys won’t outright release Elliott this year, as doing so pre-June 1 would trigger a whopping $24.5 million dead-money hit. Trading him won’t do the team any favors, either — just $1.2 million in cap savings.
If Dallas does opt to move on, they must rip off the Band-aid sooner than later. 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 start of the new league year. Left unbothered, the two-time NFL rushing champ will count $13.7 million against the 2021 cap.
The best course of action for the Cowboys is to approach Elliott, the sport’s richest running back, about a simple restructure of his $90 million pact, immediately producing $6.8 million in relief, per OverTheCap.com. It’d be justified.
Named the team’s biggest disappointment of 2020 (which is saying something), Elliott eclipsed 100 yards in just two games and notched his fewest ground touchdowns (eight) since 2018, as well as the lowest yards-per-carry (4.0) of his five-year career. His receiving output (338 yards) also took a turndown from 2019 (420).
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL