Cowboys reveal real reason they cut Ezekiel Elliott
When the Dallas Cowboys released former NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott on March 15, many questioned why the team didn’t outright ask the former No. 4 overall pick to take a pay cut.
At the NFL’s annual meeting, Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones disclosed that although a pay cut was talked about internally, the team believed it had a good reason for not offering Elliott a reduced deal.
“The last thing we want to do is do anything that would be insulting to a player, to a great player, like Zeke, who was one of the best players to ever put on a Cowboys uniform,” Jones said, via Jori Epstein of Yahoo Sports. “There are sensitivities when you get into making offers.”
With a cap hit of $16.7 million in 2023, Elliott was released with a post-June 1 designation, saving Dallas $10.9 million in cap space with just $5.8 million in dead money.
Elliott saw his role diminish this past season (876 yards, 3.8 yards per carry) with the emergence of fourth-year running back Tony Pollard, who averaged 5.2 yards per carry while rushing for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns. The Cowboys franchise-tagged Pollard, guaranteeing him a $10.1 million salary for the 2023 season and making Elliott and his inflated salary all the more expendable.
Although Elliott is one of the top free agents still available, the market for running backs has been lean. Other top halfbacks like Miles Sanders and David Montgomery signed four- and three-year deals worth $6.25 million and $6 million per season, respectively.
“Sometimes the best thing is to let them get a feel for what the market is,” Jones added. “…I think for the most part we’ve worked through these tough situations in a good way and hopefully we’re doing it in spades with Zeke because there’s nothing but love and respect for Zeke Elliott.”
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t completely shut down a possible reunion with Elliott at a reduced salary during the NFL’s annual meeting, stating the team would “always keep the door open.”
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