The buzz continues to grow over a potential Dallas Cowboys reunion with Ezekiel Elliott, with franchise legend Troy Aikman throwing some additional fuel on the fire.
Elliott was released by the Cowboys on March 15 in a significant cap-saving move. Last season, he ran for a career-low 876 yards on 3.8 yards per carry. He’s not the back he once was — leading the NFL in rushing twice in 2016 and 2018 — but Aikman sees a lot of value in keeping Elliott around.
“I don’t want to speak for the Cowboys or the Joneses, but it feels like that might be the case,” Aikman said during a charity event on April 21 when asked about a potential Cowboys’ reunion with Elliott. “I know there’s a great amount of respect for Zeke. I think the question becomes, ‘Is Zeke capable of really having a reduced role?’ My guess is, knowing him the way that I do, that he would handle that fine. I thought he handled everything this past year really well.”
Elliott is still a free agent and — naturally — a reunion with the Cowboys has been a much-discussed topic. Part of that is because Dallas refuses to shut the door on the potential move.
“Well, that was on the table, and you might say to some degree that hasn’t changed and won’t until he signs someplace else,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said at the NFL owners’ meeting in Phoenix in March. “I don’t want to leave him hanging, our fans hanging, or anybody, but I wouldn’t take any possibility off the table.”
Elliott would work behind Tony Pollard, who is now the No. 1 back in Dallas after a breakout Pro Bowl season. Pollard is explosive and a major weapon in the passing game.
However, Elliott could still bring a lot to the table as a short-yardage back. He led the Cowboys with 12 touchdowns last season and his instincts around the goal line are still sharp. But his numbers in the box score would not be Elliott’s greatest contribution, per Aikman.
“I’ve talked to a number of people that have been in that locker room — coaches, players — and he’s the glue,” Aikman said. “Losing those type of players — I’ve said it before — you don’t replace those guys. It’s really, really hard. We had some when I was playing: didn’t contribute much on the field during the games- he obviously would contribute more- but those that didn’t, they had a really big role in allowing us to do what we were able to do, and I think Zeke’s one of those people.”
There have been a variety of changes for the Cowboys this offseason, although Elliott is the most noticeable. Quarterback Dak Prescott is one of his best friends and the two have been working out together this offseason, despite Elliott’s uncertain future.
Prescott acknowledged it hasn’t been an easy transition but he’s hopeful.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it was tough going in Day 1. Not just because of Zeke, but a bunch of coaching changes,” Prescott said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I can’t say it was tough, it was interesting. ‘How’s this going to feel? What’s this going to be like?’ When I left, it was amazing, honestly. It was change, but it was a sense of positive change and excitement for me.”
What will play a factor in a reunion with Elliott is the NFL Draft. The Cowboys have been heavily linked to Texas running back Bijan Robinson and if he falls to them at No. 26, they’d be set in their backfield.