Seemingly all the headlines regarding Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott this offseason have been questioning his future in Big D. Most recently, Bleacher Report identified Elliott as a player Dallas should trade before the season.
As a result? Let's just say seats to get back on the Elliott bandwagon are readily available.
Last season, Elliott posted over 1,000 rushing yards on 4.2 yards per carry with 10 rushing touchdowns. Nonetheless, 2021 was considered a down year.
Ranking as the seventh leading rusher on a partially torn PCL and then being criticized for it is seems harsh. For many running backs, that would be a career year. Yet Elliott gets thrown into trade rumors.
While doubt has been a surrounding narrative for Elliott, his team has adamantly had his back. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy expects Elliott to bounce back, and cites his health as a major reason.
“I think the biggest thing with Zeke is he’s completely healthy now and he’s had a tremendous offseason,” McCarthy said. "He’s in top shape. At the end of the day, he’s an extremely instinctive, tough, smart football player, great teammate. So, I think he’s definitely set himself up for that."
Cowboys All-Pro right guard Zack Martin when praising Elliott, reminisced on his resiliency during the tumultuous 2020 season.
"Think back to 2020. Half of the offense is out and Zeke is still in there carrying the ball 20 times a game. So, we've got a lot of love on this team for Zeke, and we're pumped to get him back going the right direction," Martin said. "He loves this team and he gives everything of himself for this team. The last two years, that's shown."
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The Cowboys also like Tony Pollard, and Zeke's backup figures to be even more in the picture this season - another reason some are speculating about an Elliott trade. But B/R's most prominent point is about the money, and here's where the idea of an Elliott trade goes a bit nuts: B/R writes, "He's under contract for the next four campaigns and the number never dips below $14.3 million. By trading him now, the Cowboys can save $12.4 million toward this year's salary cap.''
The issue there: While Elliott is indeed under contract through 2026, the contract was designed to have an "escape hatch'' after 2022. So that cap savings that can be had by dumping Zeke now can also be had, at almost the same rate, by moving off of him a year from now.
If Dallas needed cap room today, this would be a more viable concept. But the Cowboys already have $22 million of room, earmarked for future-years spending. So they don't need the room.
In their view, they need a star running back. And in their view, they have one in Ezekiel Elliott.
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