The initial flurry of NFL free agency is now over, but several players remain unsigned. The Dallas Cowboys released Ezekiel Elliott at the start of free agency. While Elliott is certainly on the back nine of his career, he’s not done yet. Let’s examine potential landing spots for Elliott to continue his career and what the fantasy football impact would be.
Ezekiel Elliott Free Agency Predictions
Every year, the free agent class has its strengths and weaknesses. The 2023 class was very weak at wide receiver but was absolutely loaded at running back. With most of the key names signed already, combined with what is believed to be a very strong rookie running back class, Elliott’s opportunities may be more limited than he’d like.
There are still teams that could use a short-yardage power back who is excellent in pass protection. Someone is going to sign Elliott.
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According to Adam Schefter, “Cowboys’ RB Ezekiel Elliott has narrowed down his options about where to play to the Eagles, Jets, and Bengals, and he would like to make his decision about where to sign by the end of next week, per sources.”
While it’s certainly no guarantee Elliott gets his wish with any of these landing spots, it can’t hurt to be proactive about things and discuss how each of these teams signing Elliott would impact his fantasy value and the running backs around him.
Elliott Would Be a Rough Fit With the Eagles
Not everything is all sunshine and rainbows. The idea of Elliott as the short-yardage and goal-line back for the Eagles would be fantastic for his fantasy value.
It may be a challenge for long-time fantasy managers to adjust their perspective on who Elliott is as a fantasy asset. Elite RB1 Zeke is never returning. He would do well to even be an RB2.
The best for his fantasy value would be somewhere like Philly — a place that has a high-powered offense that could generate a bunch of goal-line looks.
Unfortunately, there are several issues with Elliott to the Eagles. First and foremost, the Eagles don’t want him. According to NBC Philadelphia’s John Clark, “The Eagles have not engaged in conversations with Ezekiel Elliott about joining the team and are happy with the running backs they have right now.”
This reaction makes sense as, secondly, the Eagles already have Kenneth Gainwell as their passing down back, signed Rashaad Penny as their Miles Sanders upgrade/replacement, and brought back Boston Scott as the guy who back backup both.
If Elliott did end up signing with the Eagles, he would likely push Scott to be a weekly inactive. At best, he would be a touchdown-dependent RB3. I don’t even think he could be an RB2 with the Eagles because the volume just wouldn’t be there. All in all, I’d be very surprised if the Eagles added another running back.
The Bengals Could Use Elliott To Pair With Joe Mixon
Out of the three teams Elliott wants to play for, the Bengals make the most sense. Joe Mixon has been the subject of multiple off-the-field incidents this offseason. While all potential legal issues ultimately fizzled out, Mixon could still be subject to league discipline. The Bengals could also cut him.
Even assuming the Bengals hang onto Mixon, they need an RB2. Samaje Perine signed with the Broncos, leaving Chris Evans and Trayveon Williams as the only two remaining backs.
The Bengals were already scaling back Mixon’s role last season. Perine out-snapped him in the team’s final playoff game. They also used Perine more than Mixon on passing downs.
Elliott may not have much left in the tank, but he can still pass protect. With that said, Elliott’s receiving role has disappeared. He saw a career-low, by far, 4.8% target share last season.
The Bengals don’t need a short yardage back — Mixon can do that. They need a satellite back. Zeke doesn’t really fit the role perfectly.
There’s also the matter of the Bengals not being interested in Elliott, either. Head coach Zac Taylor told WCPO’s Mike Dyer, “There’s a lot of great players that are available right now. We like our team and where it’s at right now, but it’s always funny when things get thrown around. Sometimes it’s the first you hear of it, but that’s just the way life works.”
If Elliott did join the Bengals, he would probably drop Mixon from a low RB1 to a high RB2. Elliott would be a touchdown-dependent RB3. But it doesn’t seem like this is happening. The Bengals will probably sign or draft another running back. It just won’t be Elliott.
Elliott Could Help the Jets Ease Breece Hall Into Action
Such is the problem with running backs searching for teams deep into free agency. Most teams have already secured their backfields.
The Jets have Breece Hall, Michael Carter, Zonovan Knight, and Ty Johnson. The only scenario in which Elliott would fit in is if Hall’s recovery from his midseason ACL tear went worse than expected, resulting in him possibly missing the early part of the season.
After Hall went down, the Jets experimented with Carter as the lead back. Then they went with Knight. There were games where Johnson was heavily utilized. Simply put, they had no clear answer.
At this stage in his career, Elliott is nothing more than a role player. However, he could still eat carries for a few weeks while Hall worked his way back.
With that said, Hall and Carter aren’t particularly keen on the idea of the Jets signing Zeke. According to Sports Illustrated’s Mike Fisher, in since-deleted tweets, Hall said, “I think we good over here,” to which Carter replied, “Agreed.”
It seems the market for Elliott is not nearly as rich as he’d like to be. All three on Elliott’s wish list seem like nothing more than that — wishes.
If Elliott did join the Jets, he could potentially end up in the RB2 role behind Hall. None of Carter, Knight, or Johnson are more than bit players in an NFL offense. Of course, it sure looks like that’s where Elliott is at this point in his career as well.
Ezekiel Elliott’s Market Value, Career Stats, and More
This is such a unique situation after Elliott signed the largest (read: most ridiculous) running back contract in NFL history. The Cowboys designated him as a post-June 1 cut to soften the dead cap hit, which will be $11.8 million in 2023.
Elliott will be 28 years old this season. He may very well only have 2-3 years left in the NFL. However, I don’t think he necessarily views himself as a guy who can’t do it anymore. I get serious Melvin Gordon vibes from Elliott’s outlook on his abilities.
By no means should anyone take anything away from Elliott’s accomplishments. He was objectively one of the best running backs in football from the moment he was drafted in 2016.
It wasn’t just production either — the talent was there in spades. Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards per game in each of his first three seasons. The only reason he didn’t win the overall rushing title in 2017 was because of his six-game suspension.
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But he’s winding down now. Elliott’s touch count has declined in each of his past four seasons since his career-high 381 in 2018.
The running back position is bruising, and Elliott has amassed nearly 2,200 career touches.
I would be very surprised if Elliott couldn’t get a job somewhere. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a hard time finding the right spot because his estimation of his market value may very well be higher than his actual market value. I would be surprised if Elliott got anything longer than a one-year deal for anything more than $5-6 million.
Elliott’s Career Stats
- Carries: 1,881
- Rushing Yards: 8,262
- Receptions: 305
- Receiving Yards: 2,336
- Total Touchdowns: 80