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Cowboys release Ezekiel Elliott, end of an era in Dallas football

The former 4th overall pick of the Cowboys is cut from the roster.

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Speculation had been swirling since the end of the regular season over what the Cowboys would do with veteran running back Ezekiel Elliott, but that speculation came to an end on Wednesday as the Cowboys decided to release the former fourth overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft.

The move comes as a result of an out that was inserted into Elliott’s massive contract extension he signed prior to the 2019 season. While it made Elliott the highest paid running back in the NFL at the time, it also gave Dallas the option to get out from his contract this offseason. With the decision to designate Elliott as a post-June 1st cut, the Cowboys save a total of $10.9 million.

Elliott became a star right away for the Cowboys by leading the league in rushing for two of his first three seasons, and averaging 4.6 yards per carry over his first four years. But Elliott’s play began to decline as his workload increased. He had a career high six fumbles in 2020 before setting a career low in yards per game in 2021, breaking that figure this past year.

Elliott’s decline in play coincided with the rise of Tony Pollard, whom the team placed the franchise tag on earlier this offseason. Pollard offered more explosiveness and speed than Elliott, being the younger back with less carries under his belt. After pleas from the fan base for several years, Pollard became a more central figure to the Cowboys offense in 2022, and it’s why they felt comfortable using the franchise tag on him. However, it also had the effect of forcing the Cowboys to reevaluate Elliott and his contract.

It remains to be seen what is next for Elliott. The free agent market for running backs isn’t what it once was, and Elliott already has a lot of wear and tear on him. The possibility does exist that Dallas may try to re-sign him to a significantly cheaper contract, as the two sides had reportedly been discussing a contract restructuring prior to Elliott’s release. Elliott will probably be able to find a landing spot somewhere in the league, though it’s unlikely he’ll get a deal similar to what he had been playing on.

As for the Cowboys, they’ve now freed up even more cap space to continue building out their roster following moves to sign Leighton Vander Esch and Donovan Wilson while trading for Stephon Gilmore. There’s no obvious next step for them, but Dallas has ensured that they at least have the ability to be more aggressive this offseason than they typically have in the past.

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