Ezekiel Elliott’s time with the Dallas Cowboys has come to an end.
The Dallas Cowboys officially released the former Ohio State running back on Wednesday, making him a free agent for the first time in his NFL career after seven years in Dallas.
In a statement released through the team’s website, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the franchise “mutually agreed with Zeke that the best decision for everyone” was for Elliott to become a free agent.
"Zeke's impact and influence is seared into the Cowboys franchise in a very special and indelible way. He has been a consummate professional and leader that set a tone in our locker room, on the practice field and in the huddle. Zeke defined what a great teammate should be, and anyone that has ever played a team sport would be lucky to have a teammate like Zeke and be much better for it. His commitment and passion for winning is selfless, and the accountability he brings everyday earned the respect of our coaches, his teammates and our entire organization. He wore the Cowboys Star with pride and purpose every single time he put it on, and we're a better franchise because of the example he set for veterans and rookies alike. That carried over into our community as well, with Zeke's generosity and spirit about giving and caring for others.
We have mutually agreed with Zeke that the best decision for everyone is that he will be able to experience free agency, and we can increase our flexibility and options as well. This is one of the toughest parts of operating a team. Moments like this come, and extremely difficult decisions and choices are made. For the franchise. For me personally. For players too. We will always have a special place and love for Zeke and what he means to our Cowboys family, both as a person and a player. That will never change."
Elliott has spent his entire NFL career with the Cowboys, who selected him with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. He immediately emerged as one of the NFL’s top running backs, leading the league in rushing with 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns as a rookie. He led the NFL in rushing again in 2018 with 1,434 yards and was selected to three Pro Bowls in his first four NFL seasons.
Over the past three years, however, Elliott’s performance has declined. He averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per carry in 2022 as he ran for 876 yards and 12 touchdowns on 231 attempts. Tony Pollard, who was recently franchise-tagged by the Cowboys, had surpassed Elliott as the team’s top running back and is set to make more than $10 million in 2023, making it unsustainable for the Cowboys to pay Elliott $16.72 million this year as part of the six-year, $90 million contract extension he signed in 2019.
As a post-June 1 cut, Elliott will save the Cowboys $10.9 million in salary cap space for 2023.
Elliott finishes his seven years with the Cowboys with 8,262 rushing yards, 68 rushing touchdowns and 80 total touchdowns, all numbers that rank third in franchise history behind only Hall of Fame running backs Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett. Both of them finished their NFL careers with other teams, and now Elliott will look to do the same.