Why the Cowboys should seriously consider trading Ezekiel Elliott

By Vincent Frank
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The standoff between the Dallas Cowboys and star running back Ezekiel Elliott has now entered the second week of training camp.

There’s no end in sight. Elliott is now in Mexico as he continues to hold out from camp. Meanwhile, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has doubled down on criticism of the running back in recent days.

It’s going to get ugly. Potentially even Le’Veon Bell ugly. It’s also in this that we firmly believe the Cowboys should seriously consider trading Zeke.

Here’s why.

The market dynamic: Dallas has already made one thing darn clear. And it complicates things.

  • Stephen Jones noted earlier this week that the Cowboys are not going to reset the positional market for their three impending free agents.
  • This includes Elliott, quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper.
  • While neither Prescott nor Cooper should reset the market at their positions, Elliott’s on-field play suggests otherwise.
  • He’s put up 5,247 total yards and 34 touchdowns in 40 career games. These numbers indicate a deal surpassing the four-year, $57.5 million extension Todd Gurley signed with the Los Angeles Rams recently.

Other factors: Dallas simply must protect itself from Elliott’s immaturity and off-field issues.

  • The backdrop here is as clear as day. Elliott’s off-field issues already cost him a six-game suspension back in 2017. That impacted the Cowboys big time as they missed the playoffs.
  • Earlier this year, Elliott was involved in an incident in Las Vegas. While the NFL has decided against laying down a punishment, he’s still the subject of a criminal investigation in Vegas.
  • Back in 2017, Elliott was involved in a car accident in Frisco in the lead up to a playoff game. Both the running back and Cowboys are being sued, a suit that claims they covered up the accident.
  • Given the plethora of off-field incidents, can Dallas justify surpassing the $45 million in total guarantees Gurley got from the Rams? We’re not too sure about that.

Paying the man: The Cowboys have to diversify if they want to be title contenders. This mean prioritizing.

  • Dallas already signed defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence to a five-year, $105 million deal this past spring. That makes him among the highest-paid edge rushers in the game.
  • The above-mentioned Prescott and Cooper are also impending free agents. Each one of them should receive deals that make them among the five highest-paid players at their position in the NFL.
  • Prescott is looking at north of $25 million annually. Meanwhile, the NFL’s receiver market continues to reset itself. That should include $15-plus million for Cooper.
  • If that weren’t enough, Pro Bowl defensive back Byron Jones and impressive young linebacker Jaylon Smith should soon receive massive extensions.
  • Dallas might not be able to afford handing Elliott a record extension while being able to retain all of these other core members. It’s simple math.

The return: Any trade of Elliott could bring back a combination of draft picks, another running back an upgrades elsewhere.

  • Running backs might not be valued at an incredibly high clip in today’s NFL. With that said, Elliott is a generational talent that changes the entire dynamic of an offense.
  • If Dallas were to attempt to move him, it would be doing so from a position of strength. In turn, that would help Jerry Jones and Co. get the most for this Pro Bowler.
  • At this point in the summer, teams’ running back situations are set. Any deal would likely include a player at this position heading back to Dallas. Think Aaron Jones from the Packers.
  • From there, the Cowboys could demand an early Day 2 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and maybe a player at another position of need.
  • Would this make up for the loss of Elliott? Probably not. But it would help build a much deeper team in Big D.

Not sustainable: This situation is not getting better and the public stance from Dallas isn’t helping.

In the end, we’re not expecting Dallas to trade Elliott. Instead, we’re recommending that the team think long and hard about doing just that.

Is Elliott important to the Cowboys? Yes. Short-term they are not a better team without him. But everything we’ve covered in detail here suggests that this situation is not going to be resolved any time soon.

Pushing back the issue in today’s NFL climate will be futile for the Cowboys and could lead to being a detriment as the team starts the 2019 NFL season. Gauge the trade market. See if anything pops up that’s worthy of entertaining. If so, discuss it internally. If not, move on. It’s that simple.