The Dallas Cowboys released veteran running back Ezekiel Elliott, owner and general manager Jerry Jones confirmed Wednesday.
"We have mutually agreed with Zeke that the best decision for everyone is that he will be able to experience free agency, and we can increase our flexibility and team options as well," Jones said.
Elliott, 28, was scheduled to count $16.4 million against the 2023 salary cap and negotiations geared toward lowering that number were unsuccessful.
The Cowboys opted to designate Elliott as a post-June 1 cut, per reports, saving the team $10.9 million. The team takes a $5.8 million hit in dead money.
"This is one of the toughest parts of operating a team," Jones said. "Moments like this come, and extremely difficult decisions and choices are made. For the franchise. For me personally. For players too. We will always have a special place and love for Zeke and what he means to our Cowboys family, both as a person and a player. That will never change."
Elliott was slowed in the second half of last season by a knee injury and wasn't fully healthy in 2021. He rushed for a career-low 876 yards and 3.9 yards per carry in 2022 while backup Tony Pollard emerged as a 1,000-yard rusher and big-play threat.
The Cowboys used the franchise tag in March to retain Pollard at a cost of $10.1 million, resulting in a commitment of more than $27 million to the position for 2023.
Elliott, who signed a six-year, $90 million contract in 2019, led the NFL in rushing in 2016 and 2018 and registered four 1,000-yard seasons. The 2016 first-round pick (fourth overall) ranks third in Dallas history in rushing yards (8,262) and rushing touchdowns (68) behind Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett.
"Zeke's impact and influence is seared into the Cowboys franchise in a very special and indelible way," Jones said. "He has been a consummate professional and leader that set a tone in our locker room, on the practice field and in the huddle. Zeke defined what a great teammate should be, and anyone that has ever played a team sport would be lucky to have a teammate like Zeke and be much better for it."
--Field Level Media