FRISCO - Can the Dallas Cowboys move on from running back Ezekiel Elliott? Cut him? Trade him? Something?
In the spring of 2023.
Amid the mountains of misinformation surrounding the two-time NFL rushing champ’s situation, let’s cut through the speculation for the top 10 takes on Zeke …
1 Why Doesn’t Dallas Just Cut Him? That is not a practical plan. But Dallas does have a practical plan for parting with Elliott in spring 2023.
Zeke is on the books in 2022 for $18 million. There is no realistic way to say goodbye to that … until spring 2023, at which time Dallas could (pre-June 1) absorb a $6 million dead-money hit or (post-June 1) walk away with no financial penalty.
Book this: Zeke Will not be playing for this team under this existing contract in the 2023 season.
He will almost certainly be cut and/or offered a new pay-cut deal.
What about trading him? That is more viable, post-June 1, and Dallas would actually save money there. Zeke's dead money would be $5.8 million, with a cap savings of $7 million.
But that means: a) Dallas would be "paying the cap'' to not have Elliott, to the tune of $5.8 million, b) Dallas would not get a 2021 NFL Draft pick for doing so (as it's post-June 1) and c) the new team would have to want a $12 million running back that his own team just announced isn't worth the money.
In short: Cutting Zeke will not save the Cowboys money. And trading him is not realistic. The end.
2 What’s All This ‘Breaking News’ About His ‘Torn-Up Knee’? It is not “breaking news.” Nor is the injury what knee-jerkers (pun intended) think it is.
Zeke has been playing on a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee since October. This is news to some, but not to readers of this space; we reported this fact weeks ago.
The expectation is that the tear will not require surgery to correct the issue.
He will show up for off-season workouts, the Cowboys say, back at 100 percent.
3 Did He Do Himself Damage? “Doctor Twitter” thinks so. Some bloggers have actually accused Dallas of “medical malpractice” here - which means some guy in mom’s basement is willing to argue medicine with Dr. Dan Cooper, a supervisor of this situation and one of the world’s finest surgeons.
Imagine a mom’s-basement blogger actually engaging in a face-to-face medical debate with Dr. Dan Cooper?
“The PCL injury was something that we feel will heal with rest,” said coach Mike McCarthy.
Ah, social media.
4 Elliott Wasn’t Right, Right? Right. Zeke admitted after Sunday’s season-ending loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC wild card game that the injury has slowed him. There is pain involved here and instability, too - thus the knee brace.
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But based on the Cowboys’ diagnosis, the “damage” done here (outside of an increased chance for arthritis in that knee someday) is that Zeke’s warrior approach to trying to play limited Dallas’ effectiveness on offense.
“It says something about Zeke, not only his commitment but his toughness,” McCarthy said.
5 Why Not Play Pollard More? A legit criticism here. Elliott wasn’t himself; maybe Pollard should’ve been shoved up the totem pole.
Coach Mike McCarthy, by the way, seemed to acknowledge that specific to the loss to the Niners. And when owner Jerry Jones talks critically about weaponry under-utilized? Pollard was one of those weapons.
6 Maybe Next Year? There is an easy argument to be made that Pollard is a legit NFL starter - not a backup or a change-up - and should get the chance to prove it.
If he wins the job, cool. Zeke is RB2.
7 But Don’t They Cater to Zeke, Including That 1,000-Yard Push? First, there is nothing but internet gossip to support the assertion that this matters to anyone. Second, Elliott is on-record as saying numbers don’t matter to him. (And shouldn’t; his 1,002 rushing yards in 17 games will probably not be repped by a blue ribbon prominently displayed on his mantle.)
Third, even if this push happened … so what? If you know that no additional damage was going to be done to the knee, who cares if he joined the starters in getting Week 17 snaps?
8 But It’s All Jerry, Right? Another mom’s-basement hot take. “Jerry ordered McCarthy to play Elliott over a superior Pollard.”
This would be a helluva scoop if accompanied by any actual evidence.
And what would be Jerry’s motivation for ordering this again?
9 Bottom Line, Wasn’t Zeke Losing It Anyway? We beg you to to review our coverage of Elliott’s spring workouts and his summer camp, and our conversations with him about how and why he got 10 pounds leaner. Here you go …
It’s actual evidence, from Frisco and from Oxnard, of the kind of back he was destined to be before the knee problem.
“He had a tremendous start to the season all the way up to Carolina,” McCarthy said. “Carolina (on Oct. 3) is when he was injured. (Before that) it was clearly the best he’s looked in my time here, physically.”
10 - So Everything Is Fine? Well, no. Zeke has six years of wear and tear on him, and making him the highest-paid running back in NFL history was supposed to pay off in true Super Bowl contention. Same with the contracts of Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Demarcus Lawrence, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith …
Until that happens? Everything is not fine.
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