The Ezekiel Elliott era appears to be over in Dallas.
The Cowboys are prepared to part ways with the two-time NFL rushing champion and running back as he prepares to start fresh with a new team, according to a source close to the situation.
The move could come as soon as Wednesday afternoon when the league’s 2003 calendar officially begins at 3 p.m. ET and teams are required to be under the salary cap.
Elliott’s future has been in doubt since the end of the 2022 season.
Elliott, who came to the Cowboys as the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, is set to count $16.4 million against the 2023 salary cap with a non-guaranteed $10.4 million base salary.
After rushing for a career-low 876 yards and averaging a career-low 3.9 yards per carry, while considering Tony Pollard as the team’s primary running back, a pay cut or release was inevitable.
And when the Cowboys handed Pollard a $10.1 million franchise tag, boosting the running backs’ backroom salaries to an NFL-record high $27.68 million in 2023, the day of reckoning was at hand.
While owner Jerry Jones said at the NFL Combine last month that he would like to continue moving forward with Elliott and Pollard in 2023, finding a suitable number for both sides proved too far-fetched.
Cutting Elliott saved the Cowboys $4.86 million. If they designate him for the post-June 1 cut, they’ll save $10.9 million.
After rushing for over 1,000 yards in three of his first four seasons, including two rushing titles, Elliott has surpassed that number only once in the last three seasons.
His decline came after he signed a six-year, $90 million contract in 2019, thus leading to a narrative about Elliott’s effort and play that belied his value to the franchise as a leader.
The guarantees in Elliott’s contract expired after last season, forcing him to enter the 2022 season with his future hanging over his head.
After playing through a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Elliott missed two games in 2022 after suffering hyperextension of the same knee. The running back termed the injury a torn medial collateral ligament.
Elliott played the final 10 games of the season with a knee brace.
He did not require off-season surgery and will recover and start afresh with another team in 2023.
Elliott finished his Cowboys career with 8,262 rushing yards and 68 rushing touchdowns and 80 total touchdowns, third in franchise history in all three categories behind Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett.
The decision with Elliott puts the Cowboys squarely in the market for a one-year franchise tag with Pollard in 2023 and a running back in the draft and free agency for 2022 with undrafted rookie Malik Davis as the only running backs on the roster. Other .