Ezekiel Elliott’s $18.2 million cap hit looms large as Cowboys cut costs elsewhere

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles
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Tight against the salary cap, the Cowboys are shedding contracts this offseason. They’ve already cut Greg Zuerlein and Blake Jarwin, and bigger moves are coming, with Amari Cooper and La'el Collins among the players under contract who are likely on the way out, and Randy Gregory, Michael Gallup, Connor Williams, Leighton Vander Esch and Jayron Kearse among the free agents the Cowboys may not be able to afford to keep.

One player who’s not going anywhere is running back Ezekiel Elliott. That’s because his contract makes it impossible: His salary is guaranteed for this year, and his $18.2 million cap hit would turn into a $30.1 million dead cap if he were cut.

But that $18.2 million cap hit is a drain on the Cowboys. It’s by far the highest cap hit for any running back in the NFL this season. As long as there’s a salary cap, every dollar spent on one player is a dollar that can’t be spent on other players, and the Cowboys are spending $18.2 million on a player who plays a position that has largely been devalued across the NFL.

The reason running backs have been devalued is easy to see by looking only at the Cowboys, who have shown that you can replace an expensive running back with a cheap one without losing much of anything. The Cowboys have a cheap running back in Tony Pollard, whose cap hit this year is $1.1 million. Pollard averaged 5.5 yards per carry while Elliott averaged 4.2 last season. Pollard averaged 8.6 yards per catch while Elliott averaged 6.1 last season. Pollard picked up a first down on 27 percent of his carries while Elliott picked up a first down on 23 percent of his carries last season.

But with Elliott’s guaranteed salary, moving on from him and turning to Pollard isn’t possible. The Cowboys are stuck with Elliott’s contract, and cuts will have to come at other positions.

23 responses to “Ezekiel Elliott’s $18.2 million cap hit looms large as Cowboys cut costs elsewhere

  1. There is absolutely no point in paying RBs. The return on that investment is pitiful. Second contracts almost never work out. Draft one in the mid rounds every year and be done with it.

  2. When will teams learn not to spend this type of money on RBs? Two decent RB are better than these “stars”. For no other reasons than they stay fresher during games and it reduces the risk of injury by 50%…oh yeh and doesn’t put you in cap hell.

  3. Those Cowboys. Making it impossible to move on from Dak and doing the same with a running back! Foolish…

  4. Anybody know what Elliott’s contract looks like next year? If they can get out from under at a reasonable cap hit next year, it makes good sense to clean house this year, then send him packing next year. Unfortunately, two mediocre years will be wasted of Dak’s prime but 2024 is likely the goal for the big run.

  5. It’s never been about ability for Zeke, it’s character. The signs were there before he signed his massive contract. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks can you Jerruh.

  6. That’s why the Bucs are letting Playoff Lenny walk. BA’s philosophy is NEVER pay big bucks for a running back, they’re a dime a dozen

  7. no RB is really worth that much. Zeke probably less than $5M and that is a stretch for what he does

  8. I still don’t understand how the Cowboys have not figured out how to manage the salary cap after all these years. I thought Jerry was a financial genius.

  9. Everyone said it at the time that it was stupid to give into Zeke’s demands. Maybe with that money spent elsewhere the Cowboys win a playoff game sometime in the last 2 years.

    It’s looking more and more that Dak’s career highlight already happened in 2018 when he won his only playoff game, it’s just banking money and killing time at this point. Jerry likes to pay all his skill players as if they’ve won multiple Super Bowls.

  10. Never should have gave him that deal. RBs are a dime a dozen and hes really fell off since really the first year in Dallas,go ahead and cut him loose.

  11. There is only 1 RB that is worth a big contract and that is Henry. And even he should be less then 8 Mill a season. What a disaster paying Elliot that kind of money.
    He is not even a top 5 RB in the league anymore.

  12. Just another bad Cowboys’ contract. Road is full of them. You extend a back after 3-4 years and he’s probably already on the downside of career, so either pay less or let someone else make the mistake. Le’Veon Bell two?

  13. This should be mandatory reading for those who say there is always a way around the cap when a big name becomes available…

  14. I think the Dallas Cowboys are genius with evaluating their RB’s ,QB and WR’s. Keep up the good work!-Eagles fan

  15. Zeke is overpaid but man do people love talking about it way too much. At least the guy produces each year. No mention of Dak’s 40 million, Amari’s 20 million, DeMarcus Lawrence’s 20 million? The whole team is overpaid. At least Zeke was a top 5 running back for the bulk of his career. None of those other guys are close to that at their positions.

  16. As each year passes the mistake of drafting Zeke over future hall of farmer Jalen Ramsey looks worse and worse.

  17. Jerry was a college RB with early business ventures funded by befriending Jimmy Hoffa to access the Teamsters pension fund. Failed a lot before striking it rich in oil. Probably has a soft spot for RBs and the team is worth at least 30 times what he paid for it now. He needs to hire a cap expert or 2 to actually run the team.

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