Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott enters a crucial year in his career. After Zeke earned a six-year, $90 million extension, his production has declined over the last couple of seasons. Although he is the highest-paid running back, there is no guaranteed money in his contract beyond the 2022 campaign. The former Ohio State Buckeye’s time in Dallas could be coming to an end.
Zeke is not worried about his future with Dallas or his contract. He is focused on the upcoming season and helping Dallas win. The 27-year-old wants to concentrate on the present.
“I think it is a big season, but I think you can’t look too far down the road. I think if I focus on every day, if I focus on having a good day of camp, if I focus on taking it week by week, I think everything will handle itself. And I don’t think there’s really a reason to look that far down the road. I think if I handle my business every day, then I’ll be in a pretty good situation at the end of the season.”
-Ezekiel Elliott on his future
Zeke’s Contract and Decline
After winning two rushing titles, Zeke got his contract extension. The $90 million over six years averages $15 million per year. His $12.4 million of guaranteed money is the final season for Elliott getting guarantees. If Dallas wanted to move on from their RB, cutting or trading him would be easier after the 2022 season.
Zeke posted a career-low 58.9 yards per game last year, a statistic that has declined since his rookie year. His 2021 season included just over 1000 rushing yards on 237 carries (career-low) and 10 touchdowns.
There are factors that played a role in last year’s disappointment. Elliott hurt his knee in Week 4 and revealed he played the rest of the season with a partially torn posterior ligament. He wore a knee brace to help him participate through the pain. Zeke topped 69 yards after suffering the knee injury.
“It definitely was frustrating and definitely frustrating certain parts of the year, but it’s football. I think today might be the only day everyone’s going to be 100%. From here on out, everyone’s going to have a couple bumps and bruises and no one’s going to be 100, so just trying to do everything I can off the field to make sure I preserve my health and am ready for Sundays.
-Ezekiel Elliott on his 2021 season
The Cowboys offensive line has not been as sharp since Elliott entered the league. Dallas had the best OL in football in Zeke’s earlier years. Center Travis Frederick and right tackle Doug Free retired, and Tyron Smith is injury-prone. The organization has not put the pieces together to rebuild the dominant line and provide breathing room for Elliott.
Why is Zeke Possibly Done in Dallas?
When the former first-round draft pick hurt his knee, Tony Pollard saw more action on the field. The third-year RB recorded 719 rushing yards in 130 attempts with a couple TDs. He added 337 receiving yards.
If Pollard repeats his impressive display, Dallas could stick with their backup, who possesses a cheaper contract, and cut Elliot to create space in the salary cap.
Zeke is returning to camp healthy, and expected to have a bounce-back season. The Cowboys have one of the best running back duos in the NFL. Both will get the ball more after trading Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup likely to be inactive early this season. The running backs could share time on the gridiron together as well.
Elliott, a three-time Pro Bowler, looks to get back to his old form and prove he is still a top-tier RB in the NFL. All eyes are on him as he plays for his future with “America’s Team.”