The Dallas Cowboys have some decisions to make. Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers keeps them out of the NFC Championship Game for the 27th year in a row, and if the team wants to halt that streak before it reaches 28 then they are going to have to do something differently in 2023.
Obviously what that difference is will be figured out over the coming months and a lot of it will have to do with the roster. There are a number of free agent decisions that Dallas is going to have to make over the course of the next 60 or so days, and they may also make one about one of the faces of the franchise for the last seven years.
Ezekiel Elliott is reportedly willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Cowboys
This August will mark four years since the Cowboys handed Ezekiel Elliott a $90M contract, an inflection point in the team’s roster-building strategy. We do not need to spill more ink on the merits of paying a running back big-time money, as noted we are over 1,000 days removed from that time.
Many have noted for some time now that 2023 marks an important point in Elliott’s career with the Cowboys. It is this offseason when he will for the first time not have any guaranteed money on his contract which makes moving on from him a legitimate possibility. Given his decline in production there is a case to be made but Zeke does bring with him some intangibles that the team clearly loves.
If there is anything that any team truly does love, it is when a player is willing to forfeit money in the name of the organization. According to The Dallas Morning News Elliott is indeed willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Cowboys.
The running back is willing to accept a pay cut this offseason, recognizing that a reduced salary can better fit him into the franchise’s plans, a person familiar with Elliott’s thinking told The Dallas Morning News on Monday afternoon. He is currently scheduled to earn a $10.9 million salary in 2023.
Meanwhile, this is the first offseason since Elliott signed the 2019 extension that he doesn’t have any guarantees tied to his salary. That gives the Cowboys some leverage to push for a reworked contract.
Theoretically, the Cowboys could release Elliott and avoid paying him the $10.9 million salary for 2023. Doing so with a post-June 1 designation would mean Elliott counts $5.82 million against the 2023 salary cap and $6.04 million in 2024. Again, that route is believed to be counter to the club’s intentions.
A foundation is in place for Elliott to sign a contract restructure that better aligns him with today’s running-back market.
If there is one certainty about the Cowboys’ offseason, it is that Elliott won’t be back under his contract as it is presently written. And he is on board with that.
It feels significant that this news is coming out less than 24 hours after the season officially ended. This offseason has long been the one where the team was going to face a fork in the road with one of their favorite players, and it appears that they are already working on a potential way to avoid either of the presented paths.
It seems as if the Cowboys are laying the foundation for bringing Zeke back in some way, shape, or form. Perhaps the fibula injury that Tony Pollard suffered has them thinking differently than they were before. Who knows.
Do you want to see Ezekiel Elliott return to the Cowboys in 2023?
Yes, but only under a very team-friendly restructured deal
No, thanks for the memories but it is time to move on