When Ezekiel Elliott held out for a contract extension before the 2019 season, few questioned whether he deserved it. He had been the rushing champion in two of the last three seasons and probably would have made it three in a row if not for a six-game suspension.
He eventually got that extension, a six-year, $90 million deal with $28 million guaranteed at signing. Fast forward to the 2021 season, the first year under that extension, and some are now questioning whether he is worth his salary.
Why? Because he now appears to be in a running back by committee situation if you want to call two guys “a committee.” Elliott and Tony Pollard are the only running backs with carries for the Cowboys so far this season.
Some question Elliott’s value to the team because he shares backfield duties with Pollard; Elliott has 31 touches (27 carries, four receptions) while Pollard has 23 (16 carries, seven receptions. But what really has some questioning Elliott’s value and status with the team is their respective production.
Pollard has accounted for 183 yards from scrimmage (123 rushing, 60 receiving); Elliott has just 136 total yards (104 rushing, 32 receiving).
After Pollard outgained Elliott against the Chargers last Sunday (Pollard had 109 yards on 13 carries to 71 yards on 16 carries for Elliott), many in the media began questioning whether Elliott should be the lead back in Dallas anymore.
But there are some, like ESPN’s Louis Riddick, who are not ready to jump off the Elliott train just yet. Riddick had this to say about the Dallas running back situation on Twitter recently:
“Tony Pollard is nice, no doubt, but the reports of Zeke’s demise/decline/whatever you want to call it are bs. The tape says the man can still tote the [football emoji] with authority.”
Elliott does not seem phased by all the talk, either. When asked about all the talk claiming Pollard deserves more touches, Elliott had this to say:
“You hear it, but what really matters is what’s going on in this building. I mean, they’re not the one signing the checks. They’re not the ones sending the wires.”
As far as Jerry Jones is concerned, the Cowboys have a great situation in their running back room. He is more concerned about production and winning games. Both produced well against the Chargers, and they won. As long as the team is winning, Jones is happy.
Of course, he has the luxury to be satisfied with the status quo because Pollard is playing under his rookie deal still. But if Pollard continues to produce and outproduces Elliott, that will not be the case for long. Pollard’s rookie deal runs through the 2022 season.
So, for now, Elliott is a luxury the Cowboys can afford—but not for long.