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Ezekiel Elliott's contract remains atop the list for NFL running backs, while his production has diminished.
Beyond the upcoming 2022 season, Elliott's contract offers no more guaranteed money and therefore has caused some questions regarding this potentially being his final campaign with the Cowboys.
Elliott isn't worrying himself over any of that as he gears up for his seventh NFL season in Dallas.
"I think it is a big season, but I think you can't look too far down the road," Elliott said Wednesday, via ESPN's Todd Archer. "I think if I focus on every day, if I focus on having a good day of camp, if I focus on taking it week by week, I think everything will handle itself. And I don't think there's really a reason to look that far down the road. I think if I handle my business every day, then I'll be in a pretty good situation at the end of the season."
Elliott, 27, inked a six-year extension in 2019 worth $90 million at an average of $15 million per year. The $90 million total remains tops among NFL backs, per Over the Cap, and his yearly average is tied for second. However, after he gets a guaranteed $12.4 million this season, the remaining four years have no guaranteed money. That would make things a lot easier for the Cowboys to move on from Zeke.
For now, though, Elliott, who was picked fourth overall in the 2016 NFL Draft by Dallas, is all about moving forward with this year and getting past a knee injury he sustained early last season and played through.
"It definitely was frustrating and definitely frustrating certain parts of the year, but it's football," Elliott said. "I think today might be the only day everyone's going to be 100%. From here on out, everyone's going to have a couple bumps and bruises and no one's going to be 100, so just trying to do everything I can off the field to make sure I preserve my health and am ready for Sundays."
Elliott finished last season with a career-low 237 rushes for 1,002 yards, 10 touchdowns and a career-worst 58.9 yards per game. His 4.2 yards per carry were also below his career average (4.5). Those numbers came to be as backfield mate Tony Pollard averaged a career-high 5.5 yards per attempt to gain a career-best 719 yards rushing on 107 fewer carries than Elliott. Fans and media, alike, clamored for more Pollard touches prior to last season and continue to do so.
"It's tough being injured and kind of feeling yourself lose a step," Elliott said. "So it definitely helped me get back to moving at the speed I was used to and bringing that confidence back to myself -- back to my body, back to my mind that I could make those cuts."
Elliott believes he is indeed back, deeming himself fully healthy as the Cowboys practice in Oxnard, California.
"I was a little worried at the beginning of the [offseason], like, 'Dang, this thing still kind of feels a little iffy,'" Elliott said. "But I'll say probably a month or two into the offseason, a month or two getting back into work, and I'll say probably by the time OTAs hit, I was back 100."
Of course, Elliott being back to his old self -- the back who went to three Pro Bowls in four seasons and won the rushing crown twice in that span – will remain to be seen until the games matter. And just how much he looks like the Zeke of old in 2022 might well determine if he's still leading the way for the Cowboys in 2023.
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