Cowboys' Stephen Jones: 'No Question' Ezekiel Elliott Will Be with DAL in 2022

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 28, 2022

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 16: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on during pregame warm-ups prior to a game against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at AT&T Stadium on January 16, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is under contract through 2026 with a potential out in 2023, but his salary-cap hit of $18.2 million for 2022 is already guaranteed.

That means the team is not going to move him ahead of the upcoming season.

"I want that guy on my team," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said, per Jon Machota of The Athletic. "You talk about playing through some injuries. He's a competitor. I think he's a damn good running back. ... Obviously, his money is guaranteed. He's going to be here, there's no question. We're fortunate to have him."

The Cowboys restructured Elliott's deal in August, converting $8.6 million of his $9.6 million base salary for 2021 into a signing bonus to create cap space, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero (via NFL.com's Kevin Patra). The move increased his 2022 cap number by $1.7 million, though it was already guaranteed at the time.

While Elliott's spot on the roster for the 2022 campaign is set, that isn't the case for all the team's key players.

Jones told Machota it is too early to address whether wide receiver Amari Cooper and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence will be in Dallas when the season arrives.

As for Elliott, it is fair to at least wonder how productive he will be over the remainder of his contract. He will be 27 years old in July and posted 4.0 yards per carry in 2020 and 4.2 yards per carry in 2021, which were two of the three lowest marks of his career.

In January, he revealed he played last season with a partially torn PCL.

He still appeared in 17 games and topped 1,000 rushing yards for the fourth time, but he didn't seem to be the same explosive player he was when he led the league in rushing yards in 2016 and 2018.

Elliott also led the league in carries in each of those years and has never finished with fewer than 237 attempts since the Cowboys selected him with the No. 4 pick in the 2016 draft.

That wear and tear could be playing a factor, and there were times last season when backup Tony Pollard looked more explosive than Elliott, averaging 5.5 yards per carry.

For now, though, Elliott will remain a key part of the offense.