Will the Dallas Cowboys part ways with Ezekiel Elliott?

Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports)
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Dallas Cowboys are in a difficult situation with Ezekiel Elliott

The Dallas Cowboys have been well known for their run game since the dominant days of running back Tony Dorsett back in 1977. Now, it is Ezekiel Elliott that is the rock carrier for America’s team. With numerous issues coming up, will the team part ways with Zeke?

If you haven’t already heard, the team has not played well. Injuries struck the team, and everything has fallen apart. Adding to this season’s issues is Zeke having the worst season of his career.

He started his career with four great seasons. He led the league in rushing yards in two of them and would have for a third, but a stupid suspension in 2017 prevented that.

Now, he sees himself tying the fewest yards per run in his five seasons in the NFL. Also, he could finish with under 1,000 rushing yards. It continues a steady decline of his production since his rookie season. The drop from 2019 to this season, though, is a very concerning one.

Last season, he finished the season with 1,357 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns, along with 4.5 yards per run. Compare that to barely reaching 1,000 yards and half the amount of touchdowns while tying a career-low 4.1 yards per run.

Elliott has not looked normal this season, but you can’t put all the blame on him. The offensive linemen that have paved the way the past couple of years have diminished. While only one lineman left the team (center Travis Frederick), the others suffered injuries.

With these holes along the offensive line, the Cowboys had to throw unprepared players into the starting lineup. Zeke paid the price along with whoever got the starting nod at quarterback. The team gave up a total of 36 sacks.

It’s hard to tell how much he may have dropped off because nothing has gone well this season. It would not be fair to get rid of him because of his play this year.

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More money, more problems

Something more costly than his play is his contract. The Dallas Cowboys need to shed money, and Ezekiel Elliott’s $13.7 million cap hit next season may force him out.

The Cowboys have an estimated $33.15 million in cap space for the 2021 season. That doesn’t include contracts for quarterback Dak Prescott, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, and defensive end Aldon Smith.

The team can draft players to replace Smith and Awuzie, but replacing a quarterback is not easy. Instead, the team is likely to shed money to sign Dak.

They have a replacement at running back already with Tony Pollard. His cap hit won’t exceed $1.2 million for the rest of his rookie deal. He won’t need a new contract until 2023.

Averaging $15 million per season is a lot for a running back, but that ties for the second-most in the NFL. Running backs Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey are in the same range as Zeke. Also, Aaron Jones and Todd Gurley need new contracts and can argue they deserve that money.

With that in mind, $15 million for a running back won’t be as jaw-dropping as it was when Elliott signed his contract. That makes trading him a bit easier as teams will be more willing to take on that much money.

Releasing Zeke will put the team in a worse position. Not only will they be without an elite running back, but they will pay $24.5 million in dead cap. That’s a lot more than the $13.7 million against the cap with him on the roster.

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You can argue the team will part way with either Zeke or wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper will cost $8.3 million more than Zeke. The wide receiver position is more of a premium, but the Cowboys have two players that are more than capable of filling in.

It will likely be one of them leaving the team. With that, I think Ezekiel Elliott will not be with the Dallas Cowboys next season.