After a couple of months of rumors surrounding the Dallas Cowboys releasing RB Ezekiel Elliott, they finally did so on March 15. Now a little over a month later, Elliott remains unsigned. In an ironic twist of fate, could Zeke’s landing spot as a free agent be back with the team that just cut him? Recent rumors suggest that may be the case.
Could Ezekiel Elliott Return to the Dallas Cowboys?
There are many reasons NFL teams cut players. From age to poor performance to contract disputes to a falling out, the NFL is a business, and general managers must act in the best interests of the organizations they work for.
For Elliott, it had nothing to do with his relationship with his teammates or management. Zeke is beloved by everyone in the Cowboys’ organization. I don’t want to say this move was purely driven by financial reasons because Zeke’s declining play certainly matters, but it was primarily an issue of Elliott’s contract being too expensive.
It’s been mostly quiet on the Zeke front for the past month, but recent social media posts have sparked rumors of a possible return to Dallas. April is not exactly a time when the NFL is rife with happenings, so even the littlest of things can gain traction. To be fair, I wouldn’t necessarily call this “little.”
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott got together with some teammates for some offseason training. Well … mostly teammates. It was a few current teammates and Elliott.
On the one hand, this shouldn’t be too surprising. Prescott and Elliott came into the league together and have been best friends since 2016. Zeke’s no longer being a Cowboy isn’t going to stop the two from spending time together.
On the other hand, this isn’t just two buddies hanging out. They were actively training for the upcoming season.
Furthermore, when asked about the possibility of Zeke returning, head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t exactly rule it out, saying, “I think you always keep the door open. Absolutely”
Of course, this is a player near and dear to the Cowboys’ organization and fans. Even if there are no teeth to those comments, McCarthy gains nothing by being negative.
Dallas Morning News’ David Moore doesn’t buy it. “He won’t … The club gave his No. 21 to corner Stephon Gilmore. Stephen Jones acknowledged the Cowboys didn’t even present Elliott with a reduced offer in an effort to keep him. The reason: respect. The number that would make sense to keep Elliott on this roster is one he wouldn’t accept.”
When Might Ezekiel Elliott Sign With a Team?
I’m obviously not an NFL player, but I imagine one of the most difficult aspects of being a professional athlete is coming to terms with your declining ability. That is likely magnified for former elite players.
We saw this happen with one of the greatest running backs of all time: Adrian Peterson. But perhaps the best example in recent history is Melvin Gordon.
After the Broncos drafted Javonte Williams, Gordon maintained a timeshare with him but made it clear he wanted to be the lead back as the Broncos looked to push Williams in his second season.
When the Broncos released Gordon, he latched on with the Chiefs. He ended up winning a Super Bowl but gave a pretty candid interview at the Super Bowl about his experience. Gordon still wants to be the guy for a team. He’s having a difficult time accepting his time has passed.
By no means am I suggesting Elliott is done as a professional athlete. At 28 years old, Elliott can still contribute to an NFL team. But he’s not the guy he was from ages 21-25.
The reason this is relevant is that Elliott’s perception of what he is worth may not match up with what NFL teams think he’s worth. This goes back to Moore’s comments about why the Cowboys didn’t even bother trying to restructure Elliott’s contract. They knew what they were willing to pay. They knew what Zeke wanted to get paid. And they knew it wasn’t worth either side’s time.
Things change quickly in the NFL. In theory, we could see Zeke sign at any moment. But the more likely scenario is we’re waiting a while before Elliott finds a new team. A common path for older running backs is to sit back, wait for injuries to inevitably befall a couple of backfields, and capitalize.
Elliott will play football this year. While no longer a lead back, he will likely have a meaningful role wherever he ends up. We’ll just have to wait and see where that is. For my money, I don’t expect it to be back in Dallas.