The Cowboys decided to move on from Ezekiel Elliott when they released the 27-year-old running back on March 15. But according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Elliott is hoping to play for the Eagles, Jets or Bengals, and he wants to make a decision on his new team by the end of next week.
Apparently, Elliott is still a coveted commodity.
Now, part of the reason the Cowboys released Elliott was related to his salary. He was designated as a post-June 1 release, freeing $10.5 million in cap space. Dallas also seems committed to making Tony Pollard its featured running back in 2023, and he was given the franchise tag to retain his services.
But Elliott obviously struggled in 2022 while being outplayed by Pollard. Elliott averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per carry and caught just 17 passes, also a career worst. His 12.2 PPR points per game was also the lowest of his seven-year career, and he missed two games with a knee injury.
Elliott looked washed up, and we'll see if a change of venue can revitalize his career and his Fantasy outlook. I'm pessimistic, but let's examine these three teams to see if Elliott can still show some upside on a new team.
From a team standpoint, this is the best destination for Elliott, who scored 12 rushing touchdowns in 2022 along with 231 carries for 876 yards. He would immediately be the lead running back ahead of Rashaad Penny, Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott, and he could hopefully replicate the stats from the departed Miles Sanders, who signed with Carolina as a free agent.
The Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and Sanders just had 259 carries for 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with 20 catches for 78 yards on 26 targets. Sanders averaged 13.8 PPR points per game, and Elliott could get back to that level, which would make him a No. 2 Fantasy running back in all leagues.
To be clear, Elliott would split touches in Philadelphia. But if he can stay healthy and take advantage of the Eagles system, I could see him being the main replacement for Sanders. This landing spot would be ideal to keep his Fantasy value afloat, and he would be worth a look in Round 6 in most leagues. That is, if Philadelphia did not select a running back in the NFL Draft.
I would hate it if Elliott signed with the Jets. I'm a big Breece Hall fan, and I hope he's the main running back for the Jets in 2023. Now, Hall is coming off a torn ACL, so the Jets might want some insurance in case he's out or limited to start the season. But I don't want Elliott taking Hall off the field for any significant stretches if he signs in New York.
The Jets are likely an ideal landing spot for Elliott. Aaron Rodgers is expected to be traded there, and this offense is poised to take off. But do the Jets need Elliott? They just brought back Ty Johnson, and Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight are quality reserves behind Hall.
Going to the Jets would make Elliott a low-end Fantasy option in all leagues, and he would only be worth a late-round flier. He might have some upside if Hall missed any time, but really this would be a frustrating situation if Elliott ended up with the Jets.
This is the most interesting landing spot for Elliott of the three teams listed. That's because we don't know if Joe Mixon will remain with the Bengals in 2023. At the NFL Combine, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said "I don't know" when asked if Mixon would be on the roster this season, and cutting Mixon would save $7.3 million in cap space.
But Mixon is still with the team for now, and the Bengals are thin on the depth chart after Samaje Perine signed with Denver as a free agent. Signing Elliott would be an upgrade over Chris Evans as the main backup, but let's look at this with Mixon and without.
With Mixon, Elliott would be a handcuff, making this an annoying backfield for Fantasy managers. Mixon would remain the lead running back, but he would lose value with Elliott taking him off the field. I would still consider Mixon a No. 2 running back in all leagues, but the earliest I would draft him is Round 4, with Elliott just a late-round flier.
Without Mixon, Elliott would be in a great spot. This is an explosive offense with a standout offensive line, and Elliott could revive his career and Fantasy value if he's the lead running back for Cincinnati. But that would still be a big if. In this scenario, I would expect the Bengals to draft a running back, and hopefully that rookie would get the starting nod over Elliott, who turns 28 in July.
Clearly, Elliott's destination is one to monitor, and it sounds like a decision is coming soon. We'll fully evaluate his Fantasy value when he signs, but the Eagles, Jets or Bengals will hopefully revive his career. And we'll see if Fantasy managers can benefit as well.