Last night may have been Ezekiel Elliott's last game in a Dallas Cowboys uniform and it is rather unfortunate that the last play of that game featured Elliott getting plowed over by a defensive lineman while playing center in the dumbest trick play we've ever seen. Alas, it is true, and it's because of Elliott's monster contract he signed a few years ago.
This offseason is basically the last chance the Cowboys have to get out of the $90 million extension they gave Elliott in 2019. The former All-Pro running back's cap hit fluctuates between $14 million and $17 million for the next four years, which is untenable for a guy who is clearly not even the best running back in his own backfield. If Dallas cuts him this offseason they have to eat an $11 million dead cap hit but save $5 million this offseason and even more down the road.
Now, this will not be the Cowboys' first instinct. It is clear that Jerry Jones loves Elliott and will want to keep him around if possible. Tony Pollard breaking his fibula last night only increases the possibility that Dallas will just figure something out with Elliott to ensure they have at least one RB they can rely on heading into the 2023 season. But it does take two to tango and Elliott may not be willing to give up the money he earned to reflect his current play.
Regardless of which path the Cowboys go down there is no chance Elliott is playing on this contract next year. If they decide to cut him, who could Elliott end up with?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs had the league's worst rushing attack by a wide margin in 2022. Elliott alone would not fix that but clearly whatever they did last year wasn't working and getting a new face in the RB room could help quite a bit-- especially if Tom Brady comes back. Should Leonard Fournette's foot issue be more serious than we know, Tampa might be looking for another veteran back to spell Rachaad White. Elliott is a good fit for that role and just seems like a good fit overall as a vet looking for a ring on a Brady-led team. If Brady does not come back, well, who knows what the Bucs are going to do, but as things stand Elliott makes sense if they want to switch things up.
New York Giants
The Giants may be in need of a new running back if they cannot reach an agreement with Saquon Barkley. What better way to piss off your team's biggest rival while replacing some of his production than by signing Elliott? An effective ground attack is key for Brian Daboll's offense featuring Daniel Jones and Elliott could definitely make it work behind a budding offensive line. It would be painful for the Cowboys to see Elliott in Giants blue but it is a natural fit if Barkley is gone.
A complete lack of an effective running attack helped sink the Bills in the postseason this year. Devin Singletary, the de facto No. 1 back, is a free agent. Buffalo drafted James Cook last spring in hopes he could step up quickly but he didn't put it together very often as a rookie and it's risky to roll into camp with him as the top option. Elliott fits the vein of the type of veteran impact player they'd like to use in short spurts to push the team over the top. The Bills need a lot of help in other places and may not want to use cap space to add at running back but if they do Elliott will be near the top of their list.