Why Bears unlikely to sign Ezekiel Elliott


It seems unlikely that Ezekiel Elliott will become the next lead running back for the Chicago Bears. David Montgomery’s move to the Lions, plus Elliott’s release from the Cowboys had some wondering whether Elliott would end up in Chicago, but a move like that would be counter-intuitive.

Elliott took the league by storm over his first three seasons with the Cowboys, but since then he hasn’t been the same player. What made Elliott a great running back early in his career was his rare blend of size, speed, power and elusiveness. But lately none of those traits have shown up consistently in his game. The numbers reflect the drop off, too. Elliott led the league in yards per game every year from 2016-2018 and averaged 101.2 yards per game over those three years. From 2020-2022, that number nosedived to 60.8 yards per game. Part of that can be explained by Tony Pollard’s emergence in the Cowboys’ offense, but Elliott has also been much less effective with the ball in his hands. Over his first three seasons, Elliott averaged 4.7 yards per attempt, but only 4.0 yards per attempt over the last three. He hit a career-low 3.8 YPA rate in 2022. Montgomery didn’t light up the stat sheet either in 2022, but he managed to stay right at the 4.0 YPA rate that is often used as a barometer for effective rushers.


Both Montgomery and Elliott add receiving to their repertoire, and again Montgomery outpaced Elliott in this department. Montgomery averaged 9.3 yards per reception in 2022, while Elliott managed only 5.4 YPR. Further, Elliott had three drops according to PFF, which was tied for 15th-most in the NFL among RBs with at least 25 targets. Montgomery only dropped one pass, which was tied for the second-fewest.

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One PFF number really drives home the difference, and how much Elliott struggled in 2022: their elusive ratings (ELU). PFF’s ELU rating aims to measure “success and impact of a runner with the ball independently of the blocking.” David Montgomery’s 69.0 ELU ranked 11th among 33 RBs with at least 150 carries. Elliott was 30 of 33 with a 33.6 ELU.

There’s a good chance that Elliott’s contract will be cheaper than Montgomery’s reported three-year, $18 million deal with the Lions. However, that $6 million APY for Montgomery hardly breaks the bank, and with loads of salary cap space Ryan Poles could’ve made the money work if he really wanted to bring in a running back of Montgomery’s caliber. Instead, Poles opted to add Travis Homer as a depth piece to the RBs room on a reportedly small two-year, $4.5 million deal.

The Bears will likely add at least one more running back before they’re done, but judging from their moves Elliott doesn’t seem to fit the bill of what they’re looking for. Either they’re looking for a back with more burst who can thrive in Luke Getsy’s zone running scheme. If they want to replace Montgomery with another bruising-style runner to complement Khalil Herbert, it appears they’d rather do that in the draft to avoid paying a pricier veteran contract. Either way, Elliott wouldn’t be the guy.

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