Why the Cowboys should half methods with Ezekiel Elliott

When the Dallas Cowboys chosen Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth total choose within the 2016 NFL Draft, it was met with a variety of discord. On one hand, he was probably the most proficient operating again popping out of the draft and he would match properly into an offense that was constructed for operating. However however, he was a operating again. Groups don’t usually make investments excessive draft capital able that’s so simply interchangeable and the place comparable expertise may be discovered later within the draft.

Elliott hit the bottom operating. He had over 1,600 yards speeding his rookie season, together with 15 speeding touchdowns. He got here six yards away from 2,000 scrimmage yards. His 108.7 yards per sport common was adequate to earn him first-team All-Professional as a 21-year-old rookie. The long run regarded brilliant for him.

The Cowboys continued to lean closely on Elliott as he averaged over 20 speeding makes an attempt per sport in every of his first three seasons and had a three-year whole of over 4,000 speeding yards. The dependence on Zeke brought on the entrance workplace to blink first when Elliott held out previous to the 2019 season looking for a long-term deal. The staff and Zeke lastly agreed on a six-year, $90 million extension proper earlier than the common season began.

Once more, such a transfer by the Cowboys group was met with a lot consternation. His manufacturing was nice, however there was a lot historic information that indicated that operating backs ultimately put on down and why ought to we consider Elliott was going to be the exception to the rule? And because it seems, he isn’t.

Zeke is a fiery, aggressive participant who will lay every part out on the sphere for his soccer staff, however ardour and dedication can’t defy the physics of the human physique. Elliott’s put on has been on show. His yards per sport had declined in yearly he’s been within the league. Let that sink in a bit. Each. Single. 12 months.

Listed here are his speeding stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

Professional Soccer Reference

The Cowboys have correctly backed off his utilization, which ought to’ve been straightforward to do with the addition of Tony Pollard in 2019. After averaging over 20 makes an attempt per sport in his first three seasons, his makes an attempt dropped to 18 (2019), then 16 (2020), after which to 14 (2021). He averaged 15.4 makes an attempt per sport this previous season. Not solely did his utilization drop, however his effectivity did as properly. His yards per try have steadily gone from 5.1 his rookie season to a career-worst 3.8 this yr. Moreover, Elliott’s effectivity dropped significantly because the season went on.

Professional Soccer Reference

It’s value noting that the operating sport generally declined when Terence Steele was misplaced for the season, but it surely’s clear that Tony Pollard nonetheless brings extra juice to the offense. If they’d to decide on one or the opposite, the choice at this level is relatively straightforward. It’s Tony Pollard.

Earlier than we go any additional, let’s run down Elliott’s present contract. It’s necessary to point that he has already been paid out all of his assured cash. He has no new cash coming his means except he’s on an NFL roster going ahead. His base wage for subsequent years is proven beneath in blue (cap numbers courtesy of spotrac).

One other determine of significance is the quantity of bonus/restructure cash that also have to be accounted for on the cap in some unspecified time in the future (proven above in purple). That quantity is $11.86 million. There isn’t any getting round that determine. That cash has already been paid out and can price the Cowboys regardless.

The one actual query is, do the Cowboys hold paying Elliott his base wage for any of the remaining years of his contract? And that reply is not any.

The Cowboys is not going to proceed to pay such a hefty value for Elliott’s companies. We all know this as a result of Elliott himself is aware of this. On Monday we discovered that Zeke said he is willing to take a pay cut in order to stay with the Cowboys. That is anticipated. Elliott is aware of he’s not going to get his base wage quantity on the open market, so he’s primarily negotiating for his subsequent new contract. It’s not clear how low he’d be prepared to go, but it surely’s most likely not going to be low sufficient. The reason being the Cowboys can simply exit and discover a comparable rookie substitute within the 2023 draft for grime low cost. That is the place their operating again cap assets ought to go. And if they’ve any plans to carry again the extra explosive Pollard, then each penny counts.

You would possibly ask your self why the Cowboys would take into account making the identical mistake of re-upping in Pollard as they did with Elliott. That’s a good query, however the state of affairs is kind of completely different. First, the damage on Pollard is much much less. Tony’s 510 profession speeding makes an attempt are lower than what Elliott had after simply two seasons. And Pollard continues to hurry over 5 yards per try even now, and has a four-year common that matches Elliott’s exceptional rookie season of 5.1 yards per try. Briefly, Pollard’s nonetheless obtained a variety of juice and it exhibits.

Additionally, Pollard may be re-signed and never be required to be a workhorse operating again, extending his NFL life even additional. The Cowboys can proceed to pair him with one other operating again and nonetheless get the identical sort of manufacturing they obtained from him and Elliott.

We all know the Cowboys’ group loves Elliott, and plenty of followers do too. He’s an amazing competitor who you like to have within the locker room. He has over $70 million in profession NFL earnings and that’s a tremendous achievement in a league the place it’s uncommon to throw some huge cash on the operating again place.

And positive, the Jones’ affinity for such an amazing dude might sway the pendulum right into a reduced-pay restructure that retains Zeke in Dallas. However from a roster-building perspective, that might be a mistake. The Cowboys must maneuver by means of cap challenges attributable to the price of the opposite gamers they’ve below contract, so that they have to be accountable with their cash. Paying for Pollard’s explosive performs is one factor. However paying for Zeke’s declining manufacturing is one other factor altogether. As a lot as we might love him, it’s time to maneuver on.

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