The Dallas Cowboys cut ties with Ezekiel Elliott earlier this month, ending a seven-year relationship with the former No. 4 overall draft pick and two-time NFL rushing champion.
The move was financial, with the Cowboys saving more than $10 million on the salary cap by releasing Elliott as a post-June 1 cut. But, as Dallas coach Mike McCarthy told NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero on Monday at the Annual League Meeting, from a personal perspective, moving on from Elliott was much more difficult.
"You know, no one felt good about that," he said. "I mean, Zeke has such a bright light to him too. He's a great teammate. There's so much love for him in the building, but you get to these spots, you know, the longer you're in this league, these are tough decisions. Very difficult decisions. Very difficult for Dak (Prescott). You know, I've had a number of conversations with Dak, but it's not easy."
Following Zeke's career-low 876-yard season that saw him score 12 touchdowns, the cost was simply no longer worth it for the Cowboys to hang onto a 27-year-old running back who averaged 3.8 yards per attempt in 2022.
Reports before his release indicated the Cowboys and Zeke might attempt to rework his deal so he could remain in Dallas after a hefty pay cut. Ultimately, that didn't happen.
But Monday, McCarthy didn't close the door on Elliott possibly returning to Dallas.
"Yeah, definitely," he responded when Pelissero asked if the door was still open. "I think you always keep the door open. Absolutely."
While a report recently surfaced regarding Zeke's preferred destinations, several coaches have suggested their team isn't interested in adding the veteran RB to its backfield -- including Jets coach Robert Saleh, who responded Monday when asked about Elliott, "We love our running back room. I'll just leave it at that."
With the down running back market and a deep draft at the position, Elliott might be on the open market through the 2023 NFL Draft before he ultimately finds a home for the upcoming season.