Cowboys Coaching Change Spells Bad News For Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott

Getty Images Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys.

The Dallas Cowboys announced that running backs coach Skip Peete would not be returning next season, which at least one insider believes could be bad news for Ezekiel Elliott.

Peete was among five coaches who did not have their contracts renewed by the Cowboys on Wednesday following the team’s playoff exit. That group was made up of some notable names at key spots, including Peete, senior defensive assistant/linebacker coach George Edwards, offensive line coach Joe Philbin, assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett, and assistant head coach Rob Davis.

Cowboys reporter Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram broke down why he believes Peete’s departure is bad news for Elliott.

“Peete’s departure doesn’t seemingly bode well for the future of running back Ezekiel Elliott. The two have a close relationship through Elliott’s agent Rocky Arceaneux,” Hill wrote on January 25. “It stands to reason they would be keeping Peete if they were going to keep Elliott, who is expected to make $10.9 million in 2023.”

Peete was a vocal advocate of Elliott despite his downturn in production. He supported the two-back system the Cowboys implemented with Tony Pollard and Elliott.

“You’ve got to have a fresh back in the game at all times,” Peete said in November. “… [It works] because you have guys that are both starters but they share the workload and, at the end of the day, you have a fresh back from play No. 1 to however many plays you have. I learned that from my former boss, Al Davis. It’s something the Raiders have always done – going back to Mark van Eeghan and Clarence Davis to Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen, they always had two guys.”

Elliott’s Production Continues to Wane as Pollard Shines

Elliott has played his entire career with the Cowboys, who selected him No. 4 overall in the 2016 draft. He’s a two-time rushing leader and made three Pro Bowls early on in his career. However, Elliott appears to be on the back end of his productive years, with his latest campaign serving as further evidence of that.

His marks of 3.8 yards per carry and 58.4 yards per game were the worst of his career. Elliott also delivered a dud when his team needed him most after Pollard went down in the Divisional Round loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Elliott only managed 26 yards on 10 carries in the loss and was the centerpiece of a very embarrassing final play.

Meanwhile, Pollard shined as an explosive weapon this season, garnering Pro Bowl honors. He totaled a career-high 1,007 yards and scored 12 touchdowns.

Elliott Willing to Take Pay Cut to Remain in Dallas

Pollard will be a free agent this offseason and the Cowboys would be happy to have some extra cash available to keep him around. Elliott is scheduled to make nearly $11 million next season but has no guaranteed money left on his deal, making him a prime cut candidate.

Per ESPN, if the Cowboys release Elliott, they would save $4.86 million in cap space. If they designate him a post-June 1 release, Elliott would count $5.82 million against the cap in 2023 and $6.04 million against the cap in 2024. Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News reported that Elliott would take a pay cut to remain with the Cowboys.

“The running back is willing to accept a pay cut this offseason, recognizing that a reduced salary can better fit him into the franchise’s plans,” Gehlken reported on January 23.

Elliott also made it clear he’d like to stay following the Cowboys’ playoff exit.

“I’ve definitely thought about it,” Elliott said on January 22. “I want to be here. I don’t have a crystal ball; I can’t tell you the future. But I definitely want to be here.”

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