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    Is Ezekiel Elliott’s Fate Already Sealed Beyond 2022?

    Few players have more uncertain futures than Running Back Ezekiel Elliott. His contract is a legitimate problem and is reasonably sheddable after this season. One has to wonder just what Zeke can do in 2022, if anything, to avoid becoming a casualty next year.

    Elliott's production hit new lows last season. His 58.9 yards-per-game was a career-low and 4.2 yards-per-carry was far from stellar. About the only bright spot in the stat sheet was 10 rushing touchdowns, the third-highest total in Zeke's six seasons.

    The outcry about Elliott's usefulness was somewhat mollified when it was revealed earlier this that he played through a PCL during most of 2021.

    Even if Elliott were still the most-productive RB in football there would still be detractors. His $18 million salary cap hit in 2022 is the highest of any back by about $6.5 million. While it drops to $16 million next year, that still makes him him third-highest among his peers.

    That's why the future is so dicey for Zeke. Short of an -worthy or record-breaking season in 2022, is there really anything he can do to justify such a huge burden to the Cowboys' cap going forward? And even if he is amazing this season, will having that much tied up in a guy who turns 28 next July really be wise?

    One interesting factor in all of this is the modest increase in per-game production that would vault Elliott back to the top of the NFL rushing leaderboard. Last year, despite the lows, he was still seventh overall in rushing yards. With just another 16 YPG, Zeke would've been second overall in the league.

    This is where the balancing act in touches between Elliott and becomes so fascinating. Every time Tony gets the ball, in a way you're sabotaging Zeke's chances to justify his contract. But if Pollard keeps being more effective with his touches (5.5 YPC), you can't sabotage your by “feeding Zeke” like in the good ol' days.

    This is why it's hard to see Elliott surviving the cap conundrum next year. Even if Zeke is back to prime form in 2022, Pollard's presence makes it unlikely that he can put up Jonathan Taylor numbers. Unless he's willing to take a massive pay cut next offseason, assuming Dallas would even offer one, that seems like Elliott's only real shot of sticking around.

    The only thing Elliott can do about it now is play like his life depends on it. He can't control how many times he gets pulled for Tony Pollard, but hopefully good health and some added motivation give Zeke extra potency whenever he does touch the ball.

    Again, it won't take a massive improvement from last year's numbers to put Ezekiel Elliott's name back in lights again. But with age, mileage, and finances all working against him, can anything really keep him on the Cowboys roster beyond this season?

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    Jess Haynie
    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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    James Vargas

    Right on. I do expect Elliot to become a salary cap casualty. There are too many RB’s coming out of college every year.

    Robert Smith

    Who are you kidding, Zeke Is Jerry and Stephen’s boy..he won’t leave until he can’t walk.
    They won’t admit to mistakes by signing Zeke to an massive extension.