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Cowboys didn’t offer Ezekiel Elliott a reduced deal to avoid “insulting” him

Mike Florio and Chris Simms weigh in on where they believe Ezekiel Elliott will land and explain why it’s likely to be decided after the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Cowboys bungled the original Ezekiel Elliott contract, paying too much money and building in guarantees that made it impossible to move on before this year. But the Cowboys also may have managed his departure to perfection.

Via Jori Epstein of Yahoo Sports, Cowboys executive Stephen Jones explained this week that the team didn’t offer Elliott a reduced contract before cutting him, for one very specific reason.

“The last thing we want to do is do anything that would be insulting to a player, to a great player, like Zeke, who was one of the best players to ever put on a Cowboys uniform,” Stephen Jones said. “There are sensitivities when you get into making offers.”

So, basically, the Cowboys have let other teams do the insulting for them.

No one has been credibly linked to Elliott. Last week, ESPN published a deftly-worded report creating the false impression that the Jets, Bengals, and Eagles had made Elliott offers. They hadn’t, and they haven’t.

And so, as Elliott sees what’s out there (or what’s not out there), he could decide on his own to take whatever the Cowboys will offer. Even if it would have been regarded as an insult at a time when his existing contract was due to pay him more than $10 million for 2023.

This isn’t the way it was supposed to happen. Elliott was supposedly going to learn his value to other teams at the Scouting Combine, allowing him to compare that to whatever the Cowboys would have offered on a reduced deal. So he was expecting to receive an offer for something less than what he was due to make.

“Sometimes the best thing is to let them get a feel for what the market is,” Stephen Jones said. “When you’re talking about great players — and that’s what makes them great: They think a lot, not in a selfish way, but they perceive themselves as a great player and they are. It just becomes how do you make the business work. It always boils down to that unfortunately.”

If there’s no market elsewhere, would Elliott take whatever he can get from the Cowboys? Would he take the minimum?

Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he has a minimum amount below which he won’t play.

And remember this. Even though Elliott’s No. 21 has been issued to cornerback Stephon Gilmore, Elliott has said he plans to wear No. 15 in 2023. Whether quarterback Will Grier would surrender that number remains to be seen.

Before that becomes relevant, Elliott would have to return to the Cowboys. With the draft only four weeks away, it’s something that could hinge on whether the Cowboys add a young, cheap player with one of their 2023 selections.

It would be fitting for Elliott to return. There’s a sense of unfinished business for him in Dallas. And it really would be a shame if his business with the Cowboys finished in a clunky Stanford Band play that saw him get blown up while playing backup center.