FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys have released Ezekiel Elliott as a free agent, the team announced Wednesday.
Elliott, 27, would count $16.7 million against the salary cap with a non-guaranteed base salary of $10.9 million. Elliott will be cut after 1 season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, which means the club will save about $11 million against the 2023 cap, but it will count slightly more than $6 million against the 2024 cap. The Cowboys won’t get a cap loan until June 1st.
At the recent NFL scouting combine, team owner and general manager Jerry Jones remained open to the possibility of keeping Elliott and Tony Pollard, who were given the $10.091 million franchise tag, but that was always unlikely. Elliott would have to take a significant pay cut, and it’s unclear if the Cowboys even made such an offer. In their two previous notable releases, they didn’t offer DeMarcus Ware or Dez Bryant a pay cut.
“Zeke’s impact and influence on the Cowboys franchise was very special and indelible,” Jones said in a statement. “He is a great professional and leader in our locker room, on the practice field and in our scrimmages. Be a teammate like Zeke and be all the better for it.”
Thank you, @EzekielElliott! pic.twitter.com/kYlqwJO6Bf
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) March 15, 2023
Also on Wednesday, the Cowboys restructured defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence’s contract, opening up $8.89 million in cap space, sources told ESPN, and agreed to a reworked contract with offensive tackle Tyron Smith. They are the fourth and fifth players to have their contracts restructured in the past two weeks, after Dak Prescott, Zach Martin and Michael Gallup, freeing up about $45 million in room.
In the final year of his contract, Smith will make $13.6 million and count $17.6 million against the salary cap. With the changes, Smith’s base salary will drop, but he can make up the money in 2023 depending on how much he plays.
In 2019, Elliott signed a six-year, $90 million extension that included $50 million in guaranteed money, but his numbers have declined over the past three seasons, passing 1,000 yards (with 1,002) just once – in 2021 when the league expanded. A schedule of 17 games.
Injuries have slowed Elliott down the past two years. He played through a partially torn ACL in 2021 but did not miss a game. He missed just two games in 2022 because of right knee hypertension, but wore a brace for most of the season.
Although Elliott continued as the starter, the Cowboys relied more heavily on Pollard last season. Pollard rushed for 1,007 yards and 12 touchdowns and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time. The Cowboys have until July 15 to sign him to a multi-year deal or he will have to play out the year on the tag.
In 2022, Elliott had a career-low 876 rushing yards, but he caught 12 touchdowns and remained a tight end and pass defender. But over the last four regular seasons, he averaged 2.7 yards per carry and had 17 runs of 10 yards or more on the season.
The Cowboys selected Elliott with the No. 4 pick in 2016 with the idea of extending Tony Romo’s career with one of the best offensive lines in football. They never played a regular season game together, with Romo suffering a preseason injury, but Elliott helped fellow rookie Dak Prescott lead the Cowboys to a 13-3 record. Elliott rushed for a league-best 1,631 yards in 2016, third most in NFL history, and had seven 100-yard games.
In 2017, he was suspended for six games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, but in 2018, he led the league in rushing again with 1,434 yards. In 2019, he was fourth in the NFL in rushing with 1,357 yards.
He had 26,100-yard rushing games in his first four seasons, but had just three games over the next three seasons, including none in 2022. Last season, he joined Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett as the only shortstops in team history. 10,000 universal yards.
Elliott turns 28 in July. He finished his career with the Cowboys with 1,881 carries for 8,262 yards and 68 rushing touchdowns. He caught 12 touchdowns and 305 passes for 1,336 yards. His 80 career touchdowns are the third most in team history behind Smith (164) and Dorsett (86).