Jerry Jones, owner and CEO of the Dallas Cowboys football team has publicly stated that he will not release his star running back Ezekiel Elliott. This statement comes after their legal battle with Elliot’s alleged victim made headlines around the world.
Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys Have No Choice but to Keep Their $18 Million Running Back. The Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has no choice but to keep Ezekiel Elliott, because of a six-game suspension handed down by the NFL. Read more in detail here: dallas cowboys owner.
The Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott’s contract problem has finally been resolved after many years of offseason speculation. Now the focus shifts to other players, and running back Ezekiel Elliott’s contract — as well as his standing as the team’s No. 1 RB — is one of the team’s top worries.
Despite the fact that the All-Pro RB is paid well and his backup, Tony Pollard, outperformed him at times this season, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys have little option but to re-sign Elliott in 2022.
Ezekiel Elliott’s deal essentially guaranteed him a position on the roster in 2022.
In other news… Ezekiel Elliott’s 2022 cap hit for the #Cowboys is $18.2M.
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) February 14, 2022
In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall. That unusually high runner selection paid dividends right away. Elliott was named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team as a rookie and returned to the Pro Bowl following a suspension-shortened second season.
He topped the league in carries and yards twice in those first three seasons, as well as yards per game in all three.
Elliott held out in training camp for a new contract despite the organization picking up his fifth-year option early in the season. The Cowboys rewarded their running back with a six-year, $90 million agreement on the eve of the 2019 season, with $50 million guaranteed.
Elliott’s contract included a $6.8 million cap hit in 2021. However, by 2022, that figure will have risen to $18.2 million.
While this, along with Elliott’s up-and-down performance in 2021, may seem to be a cause to cut ties with the big-money RB, doing so this season would be financially unwise for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys.
Elliott’s contract has a dead cap value of $30.08 million dollars. Dallas’ salary cap would be roughly $12 million more in 2022 if they released or traded the running back.
That would be awful news for any NFL club, but it would be especially disastrous for the Cowboys. Before any summer transactions, the club is expected to be $21 million above the cap in 2022. Only two clubs have a worse cap position coming into the offseason (the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers).
In 2021, Tony Pollard outperformed Elliott.
In today’s NFL, paying a running back over $20 million is not a good idea. The prominence of the running game has waned over time, and clubs have shown that quality players can be found late in drafts or as undrafted free agents.
What’s worse for the Dallas Cowboys is that the team has already shown this approach in recent years.
The Cowboys selected Memphis’ Tony Pollard in the fourth round of the draft in 2019, just before re-signing Ezekiel Elliott (No. 128).
In Big D, the converted WR has had three strong seasons, with 2021 being his finest. Pollard rushed for 719 yards and two touchdowns on 130 runs last season, while also catching 39 passes for 337 yards. Elliott, on the other hand, with 237 carries for 1,002 yards, 47 receptions for 287 yards, and 12 total touchdowns.
Pollard has 5.5 yards per rush and 8.6 yards per reception, compared to Elliott’s 4.2 and 6.1, respectively.
Those figures do not convey the whole picture. Elliott is one of the top pass-blocking running backs in the league, and who knows how Pollard’s numbers would fare in a heavier workload. However, with Pollard scheduled to earn $1.1 million next year compared to Elliott’s $18.2 million, it’s clear who is the better bargain.
What does the future of the Dallas Cowboys’ running back position look like?
Ezekiel Elliott | Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Richard Rodriguez .
By keeping their high-paid running back on the books in 2022, the Dallas Cowboys will save roughly $12 million. But that won’t remain the case indefinitely.
The Cowboys have an out in Ezekiel Elliott’s contract after the 2022 season, despite the fact that it is a six-year pact. Elliott’s cap hit will drop marginally to $16.7 million in 2023. His dead cap amount, on the other hand, will plummet to $11.8 million. That implies Stephen and Jerry Jones will save over $5 million if they cut or trade Elliott next summer.
Even if this occurs — and it will until Elliott becomes the 2012 Adrian Peterson next year — the franchise will be faced with a new issue.
Tony Pollard is no longer a great bargain after this season. He’ll also no longer be a Cowboy as of today.
Pollard is in the last year of his rookie contract in 2022, so if the Cowboys want to retain him in 2023 and beyond, they’ll have to grant him an extension or risk losing him as an unrestricted free agent.
The former WR’s flexibility and explosiveness will make him a sought-after free agent in 2023. While he won’t fetch the $16 million or so Elliott will in 2023, he won’t be a bargain.
What the Cowboys do in the 2022 draft might provide insight into their long-term ambitions.
The club possesses practically all of its own draft selections this year, and one of them might be used at the position. If they do, the method for predicting Elliott and maybe Pollard’s departure next offseason is simple: the higher the pick, the more likely Elliott and possibly Pollard will be gone.
Pro Football Reference provided all numbers, while Spotrac provided contract statistics.
Stephen Jones, CEO of the Dallas Cowboys, had one regret about Dak Prescott’s $160 million contract.
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