This subtle Cowboys decision slammed door shut on possible Ezekiel Elliott reunion

Jan 22, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) runs
Jan 22, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) runs / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL community and Dallas Cowboys fans are patiently waiting for the Ezekiel Elliott domino to fall.

Elliott's been free to sign with any team since the Cowboys released him at the start of the new league year with a post-June 1 designation to save $10 million on the cap for 2023, but there's been zero indication that Elliott has had substantial talks with any team.

ESPN's Adam Shefter listed the Eagles, Jets and Bengals as the early frontrunners (for lack of a better term) to sign Elliott, but it quickly became clear based on player and coach reactions that those teams were an assemblage of Elliott's preferred destinations.

Other teams like the Browns and Buccaneers have been floated as potential fits for Elliott, but the former All-Pro hasn't taken any free agent visits, which indicates he's comfortable waiting until training camp for the right opportunity to present itself.

We all know Jerry Jones would take Zeke back in a heartbeat, but then why did he give Elliott's signature No. 21 jersey to Stephon Gilmore?

Does Stephon Gilmore repping No. 21 jersey rule out Ezekiel Elliott-Cowboys reunion?

While the Cowboys have been outspoken about wanting Elliott back, they're actions suggest otherwise. No move underlines that more than Gilmore taking the No. 21 jersey two days after Dallas acquired him from Indianapolis, and less than two weeks after Elliott was released.

Typically, teams around the league keep jersey numbers off limits off free agents they might re-sign down the line. The Chargers are a prime example.

By not giving away Bryce Callahan's No. 23 jersey, Los Angeles is keeping the door open for a possible reunion. Conversely, the Bolts quickly gave out other numbers veterans wore last season, including Kyle Van Noy, Nasir Adderley and Drue Tranquill, early in the free agent process.

Callahan's No. 23 from 2022 remains unoccupied. Sometimes a front office's decision (or lack of impulse) tells its own story. In this case, maybe the Cowboys came to a decision on reuniting with Elliott down the road back in March?

It's anyone's guess how much the No. 21 jersey means to Elliott.

Would the 27-year-old be open to switching numbers if Dallas made him a sufficient offer? He did tweet back in March -- after the release, but before the Gilmore trade was announced -- that he wanted his No. 15 back. Of course, Elliott donned the No. 15 throughout his illustrious career at Ohio State.

Whatever the case, the Cowboys and Elliott haven't made any contact recently. That was foreshadowed the second Gilmore took the No. 21 jersey so it really shouldn't come as a surprise.

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