Ezekiel Elliott Reunites With Cowboys: Why Reported Signing Was Needed for Dallas

The Cowboys reportedly have agreed to contract terms with free agent Ezekiel Elliott. The move is a no-brainer for Dallas, which needed RB help.

The Dallas Cowboys probably never should’ve allowed Ezekiel Elliott to leave in the first place. But after taking a one-year break from feeding Zeke, Dallas reportedly is reuniting with the veteran running back.

Elliott is agreeing to contract terms with the Cowboys, according to multiple Monday morning reports. The deal makes sense for both sides and gives Dallas a much-needed boost at running back.

Cowboys Wisely Reunite With Ezekiel Elliott

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero were the first to report news of the Elliott-Cowboys reunion, which is pending a physical. Details of the contract, including length and salary, weren’t known at the time of this writing.

Drafted fourth overall in 2016, Elliott became a fan favorite and one of the NFL‘s top running backs during his seven-year run with the Cowboys. From 2016 through 2022, Elliott averaged 1,180 rushing yards and 9.7 touchdowns per season. He led the league in rushing in 2016 and 2018.

However, with Elliott showing signs of aging — even at just 27 years old — and most of the league moving toward not paying running backs, the Cowboys decided not to sign him last offseason. Elliott signed with the New England Patriots, and Dallas rolled with Tony Pollard as its feature back.

It didn’t work out — not for the Cowboys, anyway.

Dallas went from ranking first in red-zone percentage in 2022 to 12th in 2023. Believe it or not, the Cowboys ranked one spot behind the Patriots, who had arguably the worst offense in football. The Cowboys also went from ranking third in rushing TDs per game in 2022 to ranking 15th in 2023.

Pollard led Dallas with six rushing TDs last season, a steep drop-off from Elliott’s 12 rushing scores in 2022. Pollard (1,316 all-purpose yards) was mostly solid in 2023, but his issues in short-yardage and goal-line situations plagued the Cowboys all season.

Meanwhile, Elliott looked anything but washed up during his one season with the Patriots. He split carries with Rhamondre Stevenson, but Elliott looked like a starting-caliber back whenever he saw the field. At the very least, he looked worthy of another NFL contract.

The Cowboys likely wish they could re-do last offseason and keep Elliott. But he’s back now, and with Pollard now playing for the Tennessee Titans, Elliott currently projects as Dallas’ lead back.

How Did Elliott Perform With the Patriots?

When Elliott joined the Patriots last August, many decried Bill Belichick for going bargain shopping rather than paying for Dalvin Cook, who signed with the New York Jets. But Belichick made the right call.

Elliott was a pro’s pro during his one season in New England, playing hard and setting an example in the locker room despite the Patriots limping through a miserable season. He played through injuries, turned in some big performances, and embraced working for Belichick.

Elliott set career lows in many categories, but the lack of production largely can be attributed to reduced opportunities. While playing a full 17-game schedule, Elliott carried the ball 184 times for 642 yards and three TDs to go along with 51 catches (third-most of his career) for 313 yards and two scores.

One area in which Elliott struggled was pass protection.

Elliott joined the Patriots with a reputation for being one of the NFL’s top backs in blitz pickup. And, for Belichick, picking up a blitz is non-negotiable for running backs; they must be able to do it.

But Elliott posted a 31.7 Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade, the lowest of his career. At times, he was a liability in pass protection.

That really is the only nitpick, though. Overall, Elliott’s one season with the Patriots was a resounding success. There’s no reason to believe he can’t replicate it in Dallas, as long as the Cowboys effectively manage his workload.

Who Are the Cowboys’ Other Running Backs?

The Cowboys might struggle to find players worthy of splitting carries with Elliott. The top candidate is veteran Royce Freeman, who ran for 319 yards last season with the Los Angeles Rams and signed with the Cowboys earlier this month.

Here’s Dallas’ current RB room:

  • Ezekiel Elliott
  • Royce Freeman
  • Snoop Conner
  • Malik Davis
  • Rico Dowdle
  • Deuce Vaughn
  • Hunter Luepke

The Cowboys also didn’t select any running backs during the 2024 NFL Draft. Nor had they signed any undrafted RB free agents as of Monday morning.

So, the Cowboys needed to bring back Elliott. We’ll see how much is left in his tank, but don’t be surprised if Elliott, who’ll turn 29 in July, turns in another solid campaign.

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