Free agency is not usually kind to running backs, even if they come with the kind of resume Ezekiel Elliott’s put together in his career since being a top-five pick by the Cowboys.
The list of options Adam Schefter tweeted that Elliott was considering — a list that almost certainly came from Elliott’s agent — turned out instead to be more aspirational than anything concrete. The Bengals and Eagles both shot down that they’d had any contact with Elliott.
And while Elliott might hope to have a new team by the end of next week, it’s more likely he’ll have to wait until after the draft to find a new home. It’s a strong class and teams almost universally prefer to go younger and cheaper at a position like running back.
Elliott is only 27 still but that’s still on the old side for a running back. It doesn’t help that Elliott has a ton of tread on his tires and has looked like he’s lost his once-trademark explosiveness over the past couple of seasons. He’s still good at the technical aspects of the position and he’s a superb pass protector but at this point he’s probably not seen as a starting running back by most, if not all, teams.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He’s still good enough to play if he wants, however. The draft should provide more clarity on which teams will still have a need at running back. Tampa Bay is one to keep an eye on.
Elliott’s longtime position coach, Skip Peete, took the RB coach job with the Buccaneers this offseason. They have a young back they like a lot, 2022 third-rounder Rachaad White, but nearly all teams employ some sort of committee approach in their backfields now. Elliott could back up White and show him the ropes, including things like pass protection.
The Bucs won’t be able to pay him much but Elliott’s offers are sure to be low anyways, and at least in Tampa he doesn’t have to pay state income tax.
And despite the Bengals and Eagles both disavowing interest in Elliott, those do make some sense as landing spots down the line.
Rashaad Penny is projected to lead the Eagles’ running back by committee approach in 2023 right now, but he has a lengthy injury history. After him, the Eagles have Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott and Trey Sermon, which is less than inspiring for a team that loves to run the ball.
The Bengals would give Elliott a chance to return to Ohio where he starred in college. He would fit a need as a third-down back to replace Samaje Perine, who was especially valued by Cincinnati as a pass protector.
That’s where Elliott would make a ton of sense as a fit, not as a replacement for starting RB Joe Mixon despite his past accomplishments.
It’s worth mentioning that signing him to a contract won’t impact a team’s 2024 compensatory picks, given that he was released this offseason.
Elliott, 27, was taken with the No. 4 overall pick by the Cowboys back in 2016. He signed a four-year rookie contract worth $24,956,342, which included a signing bonus of $16,350,068.
Elliott was set to make a base salary of $3.85 million for the 2019 season and another $9.1 million in 2020 under the fifth-year option when he elected to hold out for a new deal in 2019. Dallas eventually re-signed him to a six-year, $90 million extension that included $50 million guaranteed.
However, the Cowboys designated Elliott a June 1 release earlier this offseason.
In 2022, Elliott appeared in 15 games for the Cowboys and rushed for 876 yards on 231 carries (3.8 YPC) and 12 touchdowns.
We have him included in our Top 100 Available 2023 NFL Free Agents list.
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