After months of speculation, the Dallas Cowboys released Ezekiel Elliott on Wednesday, which marked the start of the new league year.
The move marks the end of an era in Dallas, as Elliott was one of the faces of the franchise for all of his seven years with the Cowboys. He finishes his run in North Texas ranking third in team history in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and 100 yard games, and fifth in scrimmage yards.
The Cowboys will now transition to Tony Pollard as their lead back. They surely aren’t done adding to their RB room, but it makes the most sense to add through the draft in what’s regarded as a loaded class for the position.
Elliott, meanwhile, will look to find a new home.
Getting released this early into free agency gives Elliott ample time to negotiate with potential suitors and settle for the right money.
It’s unclear where that will be, but the Buccaneers have emerged as an early suitor, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
Cowboys Rumors: Buccaneers interested in Ezekiel Elliott after release
Multiple teams are likely to express interest in Elliott, but the Buccaneers make sense for several reasons. For one, the fit is perfect on paper after Tampa Bay released thumper Leonard Fournette earlier this offseason.
While 2022 draft pick Rachaad White showed promise as a rookie, he found most of his success as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. He struggled between the tackles and in short-yardage situations, which are Elliott’s calling cards at this stage of his career.
That’s no dig at White. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he profiles similar to Tony Pollard (6-foot, 209 pounds) as a dynamic change-of-pace back. He may or may not be workhorse material, so the Buccaneers would be smart to add some bulk to their backfield to better accentuate White’s skillset.
Like Elliott with the Cowboys even after it became clear Pollard had more explosion and effectiveness outside the numbers, that’s why Fournette was so important to Tampa’s offense over his three years with the team. He was the boom to Pollard’s zoom; the earth to Pollard’s fire or wind.
The other variable to consider is Skip Peete, Dallas’ former running backs coach. Peete was one of myriad Cowboys coaches whom were let go after the 2022 season, and he quickly found a home with the Bucs in the same role under new offensive coordinator Dave Canales.
Peete served as Dallas RBs’ coach for Elliott’s final three seasons. He’s credited with the development of Tony Pollard, and the Cowboys were the only team in the NFL this past season to have two players finish with more than 800 rushing yards and 10 scrimmage touchdowns with Pollard and Elliott.
Further, the running back room as a unit, including undrafted rookie Malik Davis, didn’t fumble a single time in 2022.
If anyone knows what Zeke still brings to the table, it’s Peete. The Buccaneers are in a transition period following Tom Brady’s retirement, but they’ve managed to retain some key free agents, including Lavonte David and Jamel Dean, and signed Baker Mayfield to compete for the starting quarterback job.
They seem to be in the business of signing veterans. Might Zeke be the next?