3. Letting go of Ezekiel Elliott (and not bringing him back at reduced price)
I think we have to look at the decision the Dallas Cowboys made to let go of running back Ezekiel Elliott. Maybe it was time for Zeke to go. Maybe that ship has permanently sailed.
We all understood the financial ramifications of keeping Zeke last year, especially when the Cowboys had to franchise tag Tony Pollard to keep him around. The decision to tag Pollard forced the Cowboys' hand when it came to Ezekiel Elliott, meaning they simply couldn't commit that much of the salary cap pie to two players at running back.
But even though Elliott is not the 2015 version of himself anymore, I think what he and Pollard were able to do together in 2022 was much better than what we saw from the Dallas running game overall in 2023. The Cowboys went from being a top-10 rushing attatck with the second-most rushing TDs in the league (24) to being middle-of-the-pack, 14th in yards and 15th in rushing touchdowns, in 2023.
As tough as it would have been financially speaking, the Cowboys probably should have done more to get Elliott back at a reduced price in 2023. He ended up signing with the New England Patriots in a very dry running back market for just $3 million on a one-year deal.
It would have been worth that amount to see Zeke back in Dallas for at least one more ride.