The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Ezekiel Elliott, but the early signs point to the franchise going in a different direction. Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill reported that the Cowboys plan to release Elliott this offseason making the running back a free agent.
The Bucs hired ex-Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete this offseason who had been a big proponent of Elliott in Dallas. Fox Sports’ Greg Auman reported that the Buccaneers are unlikely to be a “match” for Elliott with the franchise expected to go in a different direction at running back despite Peete’s hiring.
“With news that Ezekiel Elliott is out in Dallas, the Bucs did sign his position coach in Skip Peete, but they’re not likely a match for him in free agency looking ahead,” Auman tweeted on March 15. “Won’t be as expensive as he was for Dallas, but likely still out of Tampa Bay’s current budget and plans.”
The Cowboys Plan to Release Ezekiel Elliott With a Post-June 1 Designation: Report
Elliott still has four seasons remaining on a four-year, $90 million contract and is slated to have a $10.9 million salary. The three-time Pro Bowl running back would become a free agent if he is released and is expected to sign a much more affordable deal at his next stop.
Elliott had 231 carries for 876 yards and 12 touchdowns averaging 3.8 yards per carry during 15 appearances in 2022. It marked the first time during the star’s career that his average per carry dropped below four yards.
For the right price, Elliott could make for an interesting compliment in the backfield to Rachaad White. It remains to be seen what Elliott will be able to command in free agency given what appears to be a decline in production combined with a decreased financial market for running backs around the league. Elliott is not expected to officially be released until after June 1 as the dead cap hit for Dallas decreases significantly after this deadline.
“This [cutting Elliott] is the likely choice, sources confirm,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted on March 15. “Not official. But very real chance Zeke Elliott has played his last down in Dallas (and would be a post-June 1 release).”
The Bucs Are in the Market for a Leonard Fournette Replacement at Running Back
Even if the Bucs pass on Elliott, the team will still need to address the running back position this offseason. Tampa Bay took Leonard Fournette up on his request to be released this offseason.
“I asked after the season to be (released), and they respected my wishes,” Fournette told Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud during a February 28 interview. “So no bad blood.
“…Winning is everything. That’s all. And in my last three years here, that’s all we’ve done. But since my guy (Brady) left, that’s why I came, so my time here was up.”
New Bucs OC Dave Canales Wants to Have a Balanced Offensive Attack
New Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Dave Canales wants to have a potent rushing attack as part of a balanced offense. Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht still has some roster moves to make this offseason in order for this goal to be made possible in 2023.
“So, having that balance is critical and it’s not about establishing the run, it’s about establishing an attacking offense that makes you have to defend the run but also defend the pass,” Canales explained during a February 22 press conference. “Then that’s when you become dangerous.”