Ezekiel Elliott says ‘priority’ was to return to Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott says 'priority' was to return to Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott never wanted to leave the Dallas Cowboys.

The three-time Pro Bowler is back in Dallas after spending last season with the New England Patriots, officially signing a deal to re-join the Cowboys on Tuesday. Now, Elliott is where he wants to be. 

“This was my priority. Doing what I could do to get back here,” Elliott told the Star-Telegram on Monday after he reportedly agreed to a deal to sign back with the Cowboys. “I have a lot left to accomplish here. I’m excited to get back with the fellas and chase that ring.”

Elliott was released by the Cowboys in 2023 in a cap-clearing move. Dallas nearly saved $11 million by releasing Elliott, who was coming off a season where he rushed for a career-low 876 yards on 3.8 yards per carry at 27. However, he also rushed for 12 touchdowns in 2022. 

Rumors of a possible reunion between Elliott and the Cowboys lingered shortly after his release from New England in March 2023. Dak Prescott stated on multiple occasions that he’d like to see the team bring back Elliott, who he formed a close bond with as they were drafted together in 2016. Jerry Jones also remained open to the idea throughout the 2023 offseason.

But after months of waiting for the next opportunity, Elliott joined the Patriots in the middle of training camp on a one-year deal. While he set new career lows in rushing yards and yards per carry, Elliott was an effective backup to Rhamondre Stevenson. He rushed for 642 yards on 3.5 yards per carry, adding 51 receptions for 313 yards with five total touchdowns as he was a rare spark for a Patriots offense that was arguably the worst in football.

Shortly after New England’s season ended, Elliott reemerged in Dallas, attending the Cowboys’ playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. With Tony Pollard leaving in free agency and the Cowboys not doing much to address the position earlier in the offseason, rumors of a reunion between Elliott and Dallas surfaced ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Elliott told the Star-Telegram that he feels like “I’m still a starter,” sharing that he’s in good health after a PCL injury affected his last season with the Cowboys.

“I think I’m good,” Elliott said. “My body felt really good last year. My body felt good all of last year. I got my physical. My PCL looks to be healed. So health-wise, I think that I’m definitely better than when I left.”

Why Ezekiel Elliott’s return does not help the Cowboys

The Cowboys’ running backs room doesn’t have many notable names and certainly doesn’t have anyone who’s ever produced at the level Elliott has had in his career. Elliott will be competing with Rico Dowdle, Royce Freeman, Deuce Vaughn, Malik Davis, Snoop Connor and undrafted rookie Nathaniel Peat for a role on the Cowboys in 2024.

However, Elliott is also focused on winning. He helped usher in a new era of Cowboys football when they selected him with the fourth overall pick in 2016, partnering up with Prescott to help them go 14-2 and win the NFC East as rookies. Elliott emerging as one of the game’s best running backs helped the Cowboys remain in playoff contention for much of his first seven years with the team, rushing for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns four times.

But the Cowboys never got over the hump during Elliott’s first tenure. They made it to the postseason four times with Elliott, never advancing past the NFC Divisional Round as they lost in that round three times.

Elliott is hoping his second tenure in Dallas ends differently. 

“From 2016, we’ve been working on building this franchise to get a chance to win the Super Bowl,” Elliott said. “That is obviously the priority. That’s the bar.”

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About the Author

Marie Maynes
Marie Maynes is a Sports enthusiast and writes for the Sports section of ANH.