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Offseason | 2024

Zeke interest is 'real', draft pick wouldn't impact it


FRISCO, Texas — Before the 2024 NFL Draft got underway, the Dallas Cowboys visited with an old friend to potentially set the stage for a homecoming. Ezekiel Elliott, the former fourth-overall pick in 2016 who went on to earn plenty of accolades in his seven years with the club before the two parted ways following the 2022 season, met with the team’s front office on Wednesday.

And while the Cowboys initially played coy in their post-Day 1 press conference when asked how the meeting went — focusing on the beers that were had — they'd ultimately admit there's real traction in the conversations.

"Is real that Zeke is gonna play next year? In my mind, it's very real," said owner and general manager Jerry Jones. "In my view, he's gonna play. I don't want to go too far here [though].""

Elliott is, of course, a free agent and can sign with any one of the 32 NFL teams at any point he chooses over the next several months, but it's also true that he views Dallas as "home" and that includes his service in the local DFW community.

The initial divorce was purely financial, fueled by a salary Cowboys' cap crunch, and Elliott still counts as $6 million in dead money toward this year's cap — money that has already been doled out by the Cowboys and is immovable from the list of current cap expenditures.

That said, Jones made it clear it would have no bearing on their decision regarding Elliott in one way or the other.

"Not even a consideration," Jones said. "He's earned that $6 million. We've already spent it. We're gonna pay that [bill] whether he's here or not. Just because he's that doesn't mean it will impact a thing — whether [or not] he's with this team this year.

"Let me just say this: I thought he played real well the last part of the season in New England. Really well."

And though the club signed Royce Freeman shortly ahead of the draft, executive vice president and director of personnel Stephen Jones didn't mince words when asked if Freeman's signing precluded the addition of another RB, e.g., Elliott.

"No, [because] we want a lot of competition there," he said..

The 28-year-old was indeed impactful for the Patriots in 2023, his lone season thus far away from the Cowboys, producing a total of 955 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns in only five starts. With the departure of Tony Pollard to the Tennessee Titans in free agency, one could view Elliott as a restabilizing force for a running backs room that is in a lot of flux at the moment.

The re-signing of Rico Dowdle certainly helps, but there is a lot of unproven talent behind Dowdle on the depth chart, and that amount of unproven talent might increase before this year's draft is all said-and-done.

But would drafting another running back put Jones and the Cowboys out of contention for Elliott — particularly is that player is someone like former Longhorns' running back Jonathan Brooks, whom the Cowboys hold in extremely high regard going into Day 2?

"No," said Jones, emphatically.

Things could get very interesting in Dallas over the next several days, following a start to free agency that was anything but.

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