Dallas Cowboys fans are waiting with great anticipation to see how the organization navigates Ezekiel Elliott’s contract dilemma.
For the first time in his career, Elliott has no guaranteed money left on his deal, meaning the Cowboys can finally cut bait with the declining running back without absorbing an ungodly dead cap charge.
This would be a fun conversation if Elliott’s production warranted restructuring his contract. Most Cowboys fans would argue Elliott was better in 2022 compared to last season, but that’s not saying much.
By the mid-season point, his efficiency plummeted. He still racked up touchdowns, but averaged 2.60 yards per carry over the final six games.
The Cowboys have no shortage of reasons to release Elliott this offseason. What deserves to be a part of that list? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the fact that the combined salaries of the running backs in the Super Bowl matchup between the Chiefs and Eagles don’t add up to match Elliott’s $12.4 million 2022 salary.
Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott contract is not conducive to winning a Super Bowl.
Would you look at that? It’s almost like you can pay running backs the bare minimum and still compete for a championship. Of course, this has been apparent for years — even before the Cowboys gave Elliott a $90 million contract four years ago — but that didn’t stop Jerry Jones and company from paying him.
It’s no coincidence the Cowboys’ best chance to make a Super Bowl came during Elliott’s rookie season in 2016. Though a top-five pick, Elliott’s rookie contract allowed for maximum roster-building. In 2022, his cap charge reached $18.22 million. In 2023, it climbs to $16.72 million if he’s still on the roster.
The Eagles have Miles Sanders, an impending free agent, on a rookie deal. Behind him, Philly has 2021 fifth-round pick Kenneth Gainwell making $940,000 and accounting for just $1.023 million against the cap, and Boston Scott, another free agent to be, making a lowly $1.55 million to go with a $1 million cap hit.
The Chiefs most expensive (healthy) running back is Ronald Jones at $1.25 million, and he might be fifth on the depth chart when the room is fully healthy. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is injured, but very affordable at $1.59 million, and the same can be said for Jerick McKinnon ($1.035 million salary) and seventh-round rookie Isiah Pacheco ($705,000 salary), who might just be the best back on the roster.
If the Cowboys were smart, they’d try to mirror the Eagles’ and Chiefs’ strategy of rostering multiple affordable running backs who bring different skillsets to the table. If that means letting Tony Pollard walk, and cutting Elliott — basically completely revamping the RB room — then so be it.
That is, if winning championships is the ultimate goal in Dallas.