No matter how tip top shape Ezekiel Elliott comes into a season, it is very apparent he is never going to be what he once was before he signed his massive deal. Elliott endured one of his worst seasons as a pro for the Cowboys in 2021. He still totaled 1,002 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, but he averaged a career-low 58.9 yards per game and just 4.2 yards per carry, the third-lowest mark of his career. He added 287 receiving yards and two TDs on 47 catches.
So what are the Cowboys to do? Release him?
Mike Fisher of SI.com believes the NFL’s highest-paid running back “almost certainly” will not return to the team in 2023 as his $90 million contract is currently constructed.
“Zeke is on the books in 2022 for $18 million. There is no realistic way to say goodbye to that … until spring 2023, at which time Dallas could (pre-June 1) absorb a $6 million dead-money hit or (post-June 1) walk away with no financial penalty,” Fisher wrote.
“Book this: Zeke Will not be playing for this team under this existing contract in the 2023 season. He will almost certainly be cut and/or offered a new pay-cut deal.”
Pro Football Focus had Elliot finishing as the No. 32 RB among 62 qualifiers.
“#Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott had 15 carries of 20+ more yards in 2016 (344 carries). He’s had 10 since 2019 (794 carries),” tweeted Marcus Mosher of Locked on Cowboys.
Not helping matters last year was him revealing after Dallas’ playoff loss to San Francisco that he’d been playing with a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
“The PCL injury was something that we feel will heal with rest,” McCarthy said earlier this month, via Fisher. “It says something about Zeke, not only his commitment but his toughness.”
McCarthy added: “He had a tremendous start to the season all the way up to Carolina. Carolina is when he was injured. (Before that) it was clearly the best he’s looked in my time here, physically.”
His injury status is why the Cowboys used Tony Pollard more during the 2021 NFL season than they had in years past.