When it comes to the relationship between Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys, it’s not over until it’s over. The latter released the former in mid-March after seven years with the organization as the face of its running back position, and have since signed Ronald Jones to tandem with Tony Pollard who is currently set to play under a franchise tag.
Speaking from the owner’s meetings in Phoenix, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones notes the reason for the decision was purely financial and not production-based.
“It was all about making the adjustment, principally, because of the cap,” said Jones. “It was because of where we were. That’s not to imply that we didn’t think that, in the grand scheme of things, what we were going to possibly give up there — that Zeke brought us — we would love to have him. But, again, with what we need to do to make our cap work, and with what we can do to improve … that was worth us saving that money on the cap.”
The club has not only invested heavily in Pollard for 2023, to the tune of a fully-guaranteed $10.1 million salary if no long-term deal is agreed to prior to July 17, but also in retaining top in-house defensive talent while also adding both cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the roster via trade.
As the calendar prepares to turn to the month of April, Elliott has not yet decided upon a new home in the NFL — working through his first-ever free agency — but his continued availability leads some to wonder if there’s at least a slim chance he’d return to Dallas.
Jones says hasn’t closed that door quite yet.
“[A reworked deal] was on the table, and you might say that, to some degree, that hasn’t changed,” he noted on Monday. “It won’t until he’s signed someplace else.”
There was no specific offer made to Elliott prior to his release, but it’s not impossible that things could change if the circumstances call for it — per the Hall of Fame owner.
“I don’t want to ever leave him hanging, our fans hanging, or anybody but I wouldn’t take any possibility off of the table,” said Jones.
With the 2023 NFL Draft on the horizon, it feels more prudent that the Cowboys could wait to see what their haul would look like in April before potentially circling back to Elliott and, if they were to revisit a renewed partnership with their third-ranked all-time rusher, it would be an intriguing decision. That’s not only because of the aforementioned signing of Ronald Jones along with the re-signing of Rico Dowdle.
It’s also due to the fact Gilmore has been assigned No. 21, Elliott’s former jersey; though it’s worth noting the NFL allows a number to be shared by two players (one on offense and one on defense) in the offseason. Of course, something would have to give in that regard prior to September.
For now, however, Elliott stands a good shot at playing elsewhere this coming season, but Jones is peeking through the curtains to keep an eye on the situation.