The Dallas Cowboys are fresh off finishing a disappointing 2020 season, falling short of reaching the playoffs. Much of the frustrating came directed toward the Cowboys offense that saw star running back Ezekiel Elliott struggle to produce. The lingering questions have focused on Elliott‘s future in Dallas, which he has much reason not to hold any concern over that situation.
Ezekiel Elliott wraps up discouraging 2020 campaign
Entering the 2020 season, the Cowboys had much hype around the team’s prospects toward a possible Super Bowl push.
All of that quickly came crashing down due to significant injuries across the board. The list included Dak Prescott, Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, all lost for the year through the first month or so.
These injuries placed pressure on the rest of the roster to pick up the slack, putting Ezekiel Elliott front and center to guide the offense. It was a struggle for the Pro Bowler to get going as he didn’t secure his first 100-yard rushing game until Week 11 against the Minnesota Vikings.
Elliott finished below 50 rushing yards six times while only posting a pair of 100 rushing yard performances. The 25-year-old experienced difficulties with lingering injuries. Simultaneously, ball security became a prominent issue as he tied a career-worst with six total fumbles, losing possession in five of those instances.
He finished the campaign just shy of his fourth 1,000 rushing yard campaign, recording 979 rushing yards with a career-low 4.0 yards per rush attempt. These struggles have led to the chatter that his time in Dallas could be in jeopardy given his declined production.
However, there isn’t any reason for the star running back to hold any concern at this point.
Ezekiel Elliott’s $24 million reason to not worry about Cowboys’ future
There is no way around it, Ezekiel Elliott experienced a forgettable 2020 campaign.
Elliott’s production fell well below the high expectation for one of the league’s elite running back talents. The conversation concerning his future in Dallas stems from the frustrations linked to the team’s lack of success and his struggles to anchor the offense.
The 25-year-old does hold some responsibility for his lack of production, but the notable injuries along the offensive line certainly didn’t help. That situation, combined with the lack of a stable passing game due to Dak Prescott’s absence, allowed for defenses to load up the box against Elliott more frequently. Despite all that, he nearly managed to record 1,000 rushing yards.
There may be the outside noise calling for his possible departure, but the Cowboys remain committed to their star running back. It may be unlikely he makes through his entire six-year, $90 million deal that extends through 2026 (no dead money on the last two years), but his dead cap hit remains sizable.
Elliott will make roughly $13.7 million in base salary and bonuses in 2021, while more importantly, he holds a $24.5 million dead cap hit. Even if the Cowboys wanted to move the 25-year-old, the financial hit would still be too great to take on.
Team owner Jerry Jones has also spoken highly of Elliott, voicing that he still believes Elliott is the Cowboys’ best player. There may be some lingering concern with his production, but the focus in Dallas this upcoming offseason lies elsewhere and not moving on from their Pro Bowl running.
Where things get interesting
Questions concerning Ezekiel Elliott’s status in Dallas should wane before the offseason begins.
Instead, the concerns should lie with their quarterback situation. Dak Prescott is heading into another offseason without a long-term contract with Dallas.
Although Prescott suffered a broken ankle last season, his absence was notably felt with the Cowboys’ often lackluster offensive production. The franchise will have the bulk of their attention toward securing a long-term contract with their star quarterback.
Elliott’s presence in Dallas will only help that cause. He and Prescott have developed a strong bond since coming into the league together in 2016. Ultimately, if Elliott’s issues persist again for another year, then the real chatter about a possible departure will have some legs.
Until then, Elliott remains a core piece to the puzzle in Dallas.