Every year in the NFL some players enter a make-or-break season. 2022 could be such that for Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has no more guaranteed money on his deal beyond this season. That could mean that this is his last season in Dallas, but it isn’t something that he is too concerned about.
While people are wondering what could happen to him in the future, he isn’t one of them. He is focused on the season ahead of him and helping the Cowboys win as much as possible as they are once again expected to be in the thick of the playoff picture in the NFC.
“I think it is a big season, but I think you can’t look too far down the road,” Elliott said. “I think if I focus on every day, if I focus on having a good day of camp, if I focus on taking it week by week, I think everything will handle itself. And I don’t think there’s really a reason to look that far down the road. I think if I handle my business every day, then I’ll be in a pretty good situation at the end of the season.”
It is easy to understand why there has been discussion about whether or not this could be Elliott’s last season with the Cowboys. His production has dropped each season that he has been in the NFL, with his yards per game decreasing each season. That certainly isn’t ideal, especially when Dallas also has Tony Pollard in the backfield, who has shown much more burst than Elliott in recent seasons.
Injuries certainly have played a part in Elliott’s decrease in production. Last year he dealt with a knee injury that required him to wear a huge brace, which sapped a lot of his explosiveness.
“It definitely was frustrating and definitely frustrating certain parts of the year, but it’s football,” Elliott said. “I think today might be the only day everyone’s going to be 100%. From here on out, everyone’s going to have a couple bumps and bruises and no one’s going to be 100, so just trying to do everything I can off the field to make sure I preserve my health and am ready for Sundays.”
While Elliott deserves some credit for toughing it out for his teammates, as he didn’t miss a game during the 2021 season, he is going to have to eventually produce. If he can’t get things back on track, Dallas will have to seriously consider moving on from him next offseason.
In 2023, Elliott’s contract will have a base salary of $10.9 million. However, none of that is guaranteed, so he will be at the mercy of the Cowboys. A restructure or pay cut would certainly be a possibility as no team would pay a running back that much money to receive the production Elliott has provided the last two seasons.