Everyone makes mistakes. But when you’re the owner of an NFL team and you’re signing giant paychecks to guys who don’t deliver, those mistakes are public and haunt you for a long time. The Dallas Cowboys are dealing with a lot of those mishaps. In an offseason where salary cap struggles loom large, several lucrative contracts are coming back to bite the front office in the butt.
Sometimes it’s an extension or free-agent agreement that doesn’t go as planned. In the Cowboys case, it’s an overpriced veteran who isn’t performing to the standard he is held to. That veteran is running back Ezekiel Elliott. The former first-rounder signed a six-year, $90 million contract with Dallas back in 2019. According to Over The Cap, Elliott’s dead cap hip for 2022 is a gut-wrenching $30 million. Elliott’s contract is a huge obstacle when it comes to Dallas trying to free up cap space to sign free agents and potential draft prospects.
While we all wish the Cowboys could just cut Elliott, the situation they put themselves in makes that essentially impossible. The contract is so bad that it made a Bleacher Report list titled “7 NFL Contracts Teams Would Love to Erase in 2022.” Talk about a spot-on title. Other contracts that made the list were Frank Clark’s, Sam Darnold’s, Austin Hooper’s, and Jared Goff’s.
Elliott’s contract hurts even more when you think about the production the team is getting out of Tony Pollard for so much less money. As we have mentioned in several articles, Pollard outperformed Elliott on several occasions in 2021. Yet, the team continued to give Elliott more snaps. You have to imagine that is because they wanted the guy they are paying boatloads of money to do what he is getting paid to do. Yet, that never quite panned out.
Bleacher Report puts Ezekiel Elliott’s Cowboys contract in a list of the Top 7 contracts NFL teams would like to erase. His $30 million cap hit for 2022 is highly affecting the 2022 offseason.
While it is true that Elliott was playing through injury, the narrative of constantly waiting for the running back to get back to his prior form is getting a bit tired. Last year, Elliott earned $6.82 million to have a subpar year. Pollard earned less than $1 million in base salary for a breakout campaign that amassed 1,056 yards from scrimmage. The RB2 also had more yards per carry than Elliott in both 2020 and 2021.
But back to Elliott’s contract. His over $30 million cap hit is a large part of (if not the main) reason the Cowboys are having such bad salary cap issues this year. With 24 free agents and several positional needs to solve, Elliott’s earnings are keeping the Cowboys from making necessary keeps and changes for the 2022 roster. His contract is hurting the team’s ability to re-sign guys like Michael Gallup, Randy Gregory, and others.
It’s one thing to pay a player a ridiculous amount of money for him to help your team succeed. It’s another to watch dollars go in the shredder for a lack of production. Bleacher Report is right. Jerry Jones and Co. are sitting in their offices wishing they could erase that decision.