Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t been the player he was in the first few years as the running back for the Dallas Cowboys. After breaking the 1300-yard mark three out of his first four seasons, the former Ohio State Buckeye came up shy of a 1000 in 2020 and barely broke the mark with an extra game in the 2021 season.
Mike Florio of NBC’s Pro Football Talk believes it’s Ezekiel Elliott’s big contract that’s keeping him on the team. He expanded on this theory with Chris Simms.
"Ezekiel Elliott definitely has something to prove. Look, the contract is what saved him. He would not be a member of the Dallas Cowboys right now, barring a dramatic reduction in pay. He signed the contract a year that he held out and we advocated for it. Yes, we did say get your money while you can. It's up to the team to figure it out on the back end. But the guarantees vest a year in advance and his salary this year is fully guaranteed and invested in 2021. That's the way you do a contract. You guarantee the money into a year beyond the current one, and it ties the team's hand and they're stuck. They're stuck."
Since signing his current contract, Ezekiel Elliott has slipped in his performance. On top of that, much of the 2020 season was played without Dak Prescott and saw Elliot miss one game and finish just 21 yards shy of another 1,000 yard season. However, the fact that the Cowboys offensive line is not what it once was suggests that Elliott probably doesn't deserve the amount of blame that the NFL world is attributing to him.
Ezekiel Elliott could Return to form with Adjustments to the Offensive Line
If coach Mike McCarthy can rally the Cowboys offensive line and provide their running game with a solid foundation, Ezekiel Elliot will have enough opportunities to make a significant impact.
Elliott may not be the beast he was in his first four years, but he’s still among the top running backs in the league and is now splitting time with Tony Pollard, who has proved himself to be a valuable compliment to Ezekiel Elliott’s game.
The Cowboys enter 2022 facing stiffer competition in their own division. The Philadelphia Eagles have added new pieces in wide receiver A.J. Brown and the Washington Commanders are thrilled with the addition of new quarterback Carson Wentz. As for the New York Giants, they have their own concerns with a running back getting back to form, but the experience of quarterback, Daniel Jones, will be a valuable asset to the team.