Ezekiel Elliott was one of the most impressive talents at the running back position in his first four seasons. Driven largely by injury, that has been less obvious over the past three. The Dallas Cowboys opted to release him and place the franchise tag on Tony Pollard, instead. Now, four years after signing a six-year, $90 million extension, he’s looking for a new team.
ESPN, citing Adam Schefter, posted an article yesterday framing the free agent as having three suitors, between the Cincinnati Bengals, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the New York Jets; however, it appears more to be a wish list of the teams he would prefer to play for rather than anything mutual.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylorwas asked yesterday about the report of his team being among those Elliott is working to choose from as his next destination. “There’s a lot of great players that are available right now”, he told Mike Dyer of WCPO, via Twitter. “We like our team where it’s at right now”.
Keep in mind the Bengals have already lost their number two running back this offseason, with Samaje Perine agreeing to a two-year, $7.5 million contract with the Denver Broncos. They still have Joe Mixon, of course, who is coming off a bit of a down year, but with an improved offensive line and better health, should get him back on track in 2023.
Cincinnati only has two other running backs on the roster, neither of whom have much NFL experience. Trayveon Williams has been with the Bengals since 2019 as a sixth-round pick yet has just 47 career rushes and eight receptions. Chris Evans was drafted in the sixth round two years ago and has 35 career touches, just three last season.
It’s unlikely that the Bengals will be content to just sit with what they currently have at the position, but that doesn’t mean they have any interest in bringing in a player who expects to be paid near the top of the market for running backs.
Elliott is still 27 years old even though he already has seven seasons under his belt. He has 8,262 career rushing yards (4.4 per carry) on 1,881 attempts with 68 rushing touchdowns, plus 2,336 receiving yards on 305 catches with 12 more touchdowns.
He is first among active players in rushing attempts and second only to Derrick Henry in rushing yards (8335) and rushing touchdowns (78). He ranks fourth among active players in all-purpose touchdowns and fourth in yards from scrimmage though he could move to third if DeSean Jackson retires.
The Bengals don’t have a great deal of needs on their roster so it would be reasonable for them to invest in the position relatively early in the draft next month. Veteran options could include Kareem Hunt, Darrel Williams, or, if they’re open to a more physical runner, Leonard Fournette.