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Ezekiel Elliott’s Job Security is Stronger Than You Might Think

There have been a lot of fan comments this offseason suggesting that Running Back Ezekiel Elliott has to have a strong 2021 season if he doesn’t want to get released next year. I just wanted to take a few minutes today to help some of you understand that Zeke’s job security isn’t nearly a precarious as you may believe.

We’re only entering the third year of the big contract that Elliott received prior to the 2019 season. If that wasn’t prohibitive enough, Dallas did a modest restructuring on the deal in 2020 to free up cap space. This increased Zeke’s guaranteed money in future years and decreased the potential cap gains in cutting him.

As of right now, Elliott’s schedule cap hit for 2022 is $16.5 million.  There will still be $23.2 million in dead money against the contract next year.

That means Dallas would actually lose an additional $6.7 million in cap space if they released Zeke outright. Making him a June-1st cut won’t help much either; $16.5 dead money in 2022 and then $6.7 deferred to 2023.

In other words, Dallas can’t get any cap relief if they move on from Elliott in 2022. Plus, they would have roughly around 10% of their salary cap tied up in someone who isn’t even on the roster.

Say what you want about Zeke underperforming his contract or the wisdom of paying any running back that kind of money in the modern era. There’s validity to those arguments, but what use are they? If you see Elliott’s contract as a mistake then it’s one that’s already been made.

The only way that Elliott gets cut in 2022 is if he’s a toxic presence in the locker room, something which has never been indicated in his five seasons thus far. While issues from his personal life have created headaches for the front office at times, Zeke’s never appeared anything less than a positive influence on the team as a whole.

Absolutely, we want to see improved production from Elliott in 2021 and beyond. Though 2020 was his worst season so far in the NFL, it was also the one where he had the most to overcome with offense hobbled all around him. Hopefully getting Dak, Zack, and others back will make a huge difference this season.

But even if it doesn’t, you’ve got to understand that there’s little Dallas can and will do about it in 2022. Until the dead money ($6.7m) drops well below the cap hit ($15m) in 2023, releasing Elliott serves no real purpose.

Sorry to those of you already foaming out the mouth to move on Ezekiel Elliott. Barring the most extreme of circumstances, it ain’t happening anytime soon.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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  1. I said last week that Zeke and his agent played ole JJ like a banjo! I believe that Zeke knows that his talent is starting to melt away and holding out until he got the big payday was just good business strategy. Now don’t get me wrong I appreciate what Zeke has brought to the Cowboys and I believe that he is still a good RB and I hope he wins the rushing title this year but by watching him the last two seasons if people don’t see him regressing they are not watching the same guy that I am! I kinda chuckled at what I read today that Dak said Zeke looked to be in the best shape of his life, last year it was he looked faster during the off season, the year before that I believe he was working out in Mexico and was supposed to be in phenomenal shape! Bottom line is what will be the end result after each game ? That is what counts!

  2. I think ur putting a positive spin on it which I get. But Zeke has had a long suspension and long hold out that compromised two seasons. Seems like he’s in the news a lot, and not for good things. Not the most mature guy in the world.

    Agree with Cowboy fan Ed in that Zeke agent knew what every agent and GM in the league knows. RBs burn out early and u can’t sign them to a big second contract. My hope is that he has a bounce back year, but RBs don’t usually get better as they age. He won’t get faster or quicker no matter how much he trains. Their stuck with him for two years. One of the the worst signings in the Jerry era.

  3. I hope Zeke comes in this year and makes you people look stupid for doubting him!! And you guys are wrong about all RBs burning out early…. There’s been lots of RBs last in the NFL for years and years!! Look how long Emmitt Smith played for us, look how long frank gore has been in the NFL!! And those guys were bell cows for their teams at some point in their careers!! And frank gore is still going at it at around 40 years old!! Zeke will be just fine as long as our offense stays healthy all season!! And I can’t wait to say I told you so!!

  4. Hey Cowboys Fan I sincerely hope your right! I’m in no way against EE and like I said I hope he comes in and wins another rushing title and many more! I don’t think he is washed up but to me he just does not look like the Zeke of old! It’s just odd that once he got the big contract his production has fell off! I realize that the OL has been banged up but there again if these few players want mega contracts then they shouldn’t complain when the organization can’t afford quality back up players! One thing is certain and that is Zeke is one Tough dude and I’m glad we have him ….I just hope he starts earning that big contract and please I hope you can post I told you so all year long all the way to us going to the Super Bowl!

  5. E Smith and Gore were the exception not the rule. It’s rare that a RB has their best years from year five on, and that’s about when the injuries start kicking in. That’s just the reality of it. My hope is that having covid threw Zeke off his game, but 2016 Zeke is way in the rear view mirror.

  6. If Zeke and the Cowboys have a good year in 2021, then all this “Get Rid of Elliott” talk will disappear. If he doesn’t play better and the Cowboys are mediocre, then the calls for his head will increase dramatically. It’s as simple as that.

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