NFL News & Analysis

Dallas Cowboys release longtime RB Ezekiel Elliott: Tony Pollard set to step up, Bijan Robinson a possibility in the 2023 NFL Draft

Arlington, Texas, USA;Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) reacts after an interception against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys are releasing running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram first reported the news on Wednesday morning, and the move was confirmed by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport on Wednesday afternoon. 

The move — with a June 1 designation — frees up $10.9 million in salary cap space for the Cowboys and comes just weeks after they placed the franchise tag on his backfield partner Tony Pollard.

The fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Elliott has always carried the expectations that come with his draft pedigree and subsequent huge contract, both of which are hard to justify based on a career that has seen him never exceed the 77.2 overall grade he put up as a rookie.

Ezekiel Elliott: PFF overall grades and rank among running backs (postseason included)
Season Snaps PFF overall grade Rank
2022 295 68.3 45 of 62
2021 294 69.3 T-33 of 61
2020 290 65.3 T-46 of 61
2019 346 77.0 11 of 50
2018 420 75.7 T-22 of 59
2017 261 69.5 29 of 64
2016 398 77.2 8 of 63


The reality is that at this point in his career — and really since 2020 — Elliott has been solid enough to take what is available to him without giving his team much more.

Over the past three seasons, the Ohio State product is tied for 26th among all running backs in rushing grade (80.3), tied for 39th in missed tackles forced per carry(0.13) and 36th in yards after contact per attempt (2.8). 

He is still capable of playing in the NFL, it’s just that his production on a per-snap basis simply doesn’t justify a contract that pays $15 million per year.

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This move will allow Tony Pollard to take the reins as the feature back for the Dallas Cowboys, at least for the moment.

Elliott missed Week 8 and Week 10 of the 2022 campaign and was eased into action in Week 11. Pollard finished those weeks as the fantasy RB4, RB8 and RB1, respectively. He finished the season at RB9 despite missing a game and sharing time with Elliott for most of the season.

Pollard now emerges as a potential first-round fantasy pick if the Cowboys stick with Pollard and Malik Davis as their top two running backs. The problem is Dallas could draft a running back in the 2023 NFL Draft

A recent PFF mock draft had the Cowboys taking Bijan Robinson in the first round. And while Pollard would still be a top-30 running back with Robinson on the roster, he would likely need to be drafted a few rounds later. 

Even if it’s not Robinson, this draft is full of talented running backs who could take some time from Pollard.  How far Pollard falls past the first round will depend on how much the Cowboys invest in another running back.


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