The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of decisions to make this offseason, ones that will define how the team looks for the immediate future. We can generally read between some lines when Dallas makes a move and sometimes when they do not. Consider that they have yet to touch the contract of wide receiver Amari Cooper and therefore have preserved the ability to release him this offseason in a relatively painless manner if they choose to do so. They should not choose to do so, but that is not what we are here to discuss today.
One switch that the Cowboys did flip last year involved an offensive playmaker, the running back that they paid $90M in Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys created cap space in the fall, went 12-5, and are now here about to begin the cycle all over again.
As far as literal options go the Cowboys could indeed create space in their current salary cap situation by touching Zeke’s contract; however, doing so would tie them more firmly to him in 2023.
Should they do it?
The Dallas Cowboys should in no way touch Ezekiel Elliott’s contract this offseason
Ezekiel Elliott carries a guaranteed salary of $12.4M this offseason. That is obviously not ideal considering the position he plays (which has nothing to do with Zeke himself), but hey, Stephen Jones has got this, baby.
That same figure for Elliott’s future is $0 for 2023-2026. If the Cowboys felt confident that Elliott would be on their team next season they could dip into his contract, kick the proverbial can down the road, and have more breathing room in the here and now. But given Zeke’s production, the position he plays, and all of the arguments that we have had to great degrees for the last two years, it doesn’t exactly seem like a great idea.
NFL.com looked at a few players around the league that could be eligible for restructures or releases and Cynthia Frelund highlighted Ezekiel Elliott as a contract that would be difficult to release, but one that theoretically could be restructured.
Elliott’s 2022 cap number: $18,220,000
Elliott’s dead cap number: $30,080,000
Cowboys’ estimated cap space: -$22,154,885
Dallas currently projects to have the third-worst cap situation in the NFL, forcing some interesting choices to be made. Elliott carries the highest 2022 cap hit among NFL running backs — it’s 8.6 percent of the Cowboys’ entire salary cap. Zeke posted a negative-25 rushing yards over expected in 2021, per Next Gen Stats, ranking 33rd of the 49 running backs who logged at least 100 carries. Now, that dead cap figure makes an outright release inconceivable. But a restructure could make plenty of sense, especially considering Dallas has a younger back who could use more burn in Tony Pollard.
Incidentally, Tony Pollard is entering the final year of his contract with the Cowboys, so if the team hypothetically restructured Elliott then they would be tied to him in 2023 while they’d watch Pollard leave in free agency (which is pretty likely anyway if we are being honest). Given Elliott’s recent production and the fact that there is a strong argument for Pollard being the better ball-carrier, it feels extremely unwise for the Cowboys to restructure number 21.
Frelund notes that a release of Elliott is inconceivable for the Cowboys and while that is practically true it is worth mentioning that the Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams intentionally took on over $24M in dead money for the purposes of moving on from Jared Goff. L.A. upgraded at quarterback which is obviously more significant than running back, but the general point stands that if you feel like you can be better that you should do so and get as creative as you have to with the other details.
Should the Dallas Cowboys restructure Ezekiel Elliott’s contract?
This poll is closed