The Dallas Cowboys are gearing up for a massive offseason which could include roster-changing trades with teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Dallas has a lot to figure out when it comes to the makeup of the squad, especially in the offensive departments. Specifically, the situation surrounding running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard is in the spotlight.
If the Cowboys elect to move on from Zeke this offseason, Bleacher Report‘s Alex Ballentine has an idea: offer him to Tampa. The Buccaneers struggled with RB Leonard Fournette, and a dose of Elliott could revitalize their run game.
“Todd Bowles relied heavily on the run game last season, but Leonard Fournette was incredibly inefficient by the season’s end,” Ballentine wrote. “He averaged 2.2 yards on 11 carries in the team’s playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys. With Tom Brady’s retirement, Bowles could be looking for a back who can have success against stacked boxes like Elliott.”
The deal only makes sense if the Buccaneers are fully committed to moving on from Fournette, which is a real possibility. And if they want Zeke, it would be hard for the Cowboys not to explore a deal.
Compensation for the Cowboys
Elliott certainly has value in a trade, but his salary cost is what teams will likely balk at. According to Spotrac, Elliott is due a $10.9 million salary in 2023, the second-most of any running back in the NFL.
This is the year the Cowboys can move on from Zeke without a major dead money hit (now just $11.86 million compared to $30.1 million in 2022) but his salary is still massive for the position.
Ballentine projects a third-round pick in return, cheap enough for the Bucs to “take a swing” and that feels semi-realistic considering the salary. There’s definitely a possible situation in which Dallas would have to accept less than that for Elliott, especially if the potential teams interested would rather force the Cowboys’ hand to cut him with a post-June 1 designation.
That would be a bad beat for Dallas, and avoiding that means being eager to deal Elliott. If that means a third-round pick or an even later pick, the Cowboys will have to take what they can get.
Elliott’s Value for the Buccaneers
With the lowest rushing yards total (876) and his lowest yards-per-carry average (3.8) of his NFL career, there has been a rising thought that Elliott is firmly declining. The numbers at Pro Football Reference don’t show much to be optimistic about in terms of his trending production.
However, Ballentine highlighted an interesting statistic when talking about a potential deal with the Buccaneers and Cowboys: Elliott is facing stacked boxes and is still putting together decent performances.
“At this point, the 27-year-old isn’t quite the same dynamic back he was at the beginning of his career, but he did face the sixth-highest rate of stacked boxes, per Player Profiler, and still managed to be 24th in the league in runs of 15 yards or more,” the article explained. “Essentially, he’s still capable of carrying the load in the run game even when defenses are loading up the box.”
Elliott is used to hard-nosed running, and the Cowboys employed him as such in 2022 with Pollard taking more pass-focused packages and situations. Elliott doesn’t produce at the same level as he did in his two All-Pro seasons in 2016 and 2018, but he still offers short-range effectiveness.
SO you think in a league that EVERYONE knows Elliott is done is going to trade for him? OMG uhhhhhhhhhhh No.