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Jerry Jones says Dallas Cowboys gave released RB Ezekiel Elliott ‘everything we had’

Brad Penner/Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Owner Jerry Jones refuses to close the door on the possibility of a Ezekiel Elliott return to the Dallas Cowboys for 2023.

But he says the decision to release the two-time NFL rushing champion, who finished as the team’s third all-time leading rusher and touchdown scorer, after seven years with franchise was the right one for the franchise.

And the Cowboys are better for it on the field and on the salary cap, which proved to be the over riding factor.

“It was all about making the adjustment principally because of the cap because of where we were,” Jones said at the NFL Owner’s Meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. “Love to have him. But again, with what we need to do to make our cap work and what we can do to really, in our mind, improve through scheme or another player, that was worth us saving that money on the cap.”

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Elliott was set to count $16.7 million against the salary cap with a $10.9 million non-guaranteed base salary in 2023. And that number would not stand after the team gave Tony Pollard the franchise tag, guaranteeing $10.1 million in 2023.

Elliott was released as designated a post-June 1 cut, which means the club will save nearly $11 million against the 2023 cap.

Elliott’s impending release and departure had been in the forecast since he signed a six-year, $90 million extension in 2019.

It may have come earlier if not for the guarantees in his deal that forced the Cowboys to keep him on the roster the past two years despite a decline in production.

After a season in which Elliott rushed for a career-low 876 rushing yards in 2022, it was just a matter of when, not if.