Ezekiel Elliott is interested in joining the New York Jets. But should the Jets reciprocate those feelings and try to sign the former Dallas Cowboys star running back?
That’s the question facing general manager Joe Douglas and coach Robert Saleh.
Reports surfaced Thursday that Elliott's free agent wish list includes the Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles and Jets. Bengals coach Zac Taylor publicly stated his team is not interested in Elliott, and the Eagles reportedly are not either.
Based on a deleted social media post, Jets running backs Breece Hall and Michael Carter are also not on board with adding Elliott either.
But there’s a path for Zeke to be a solid fit in New York.
Why Jets must sign Ezekiel Elliott
Let’s get this out of the way first. The Jets can’t break the bank if they sign Elliott. The only way he’s a good fit is if it’s on an affordable deal.
The Jets still need to pay Aaron Rodgers, once they finalize a trade with the Green Bay Packers for the four-time MVP. They also must work out an expensive contract extension with All-Pro defensive lineman Quinnen Williams. Plus, they still have holes to fill on the roster, including starters at center and on the interior of the defensive line.
Also, Elliott must understand his role. He would be the second option at running back on the Jets, behind Hall.
Wow, #Jets rookie Breece Hall just keeps making plays.
62-yard touchdown! pic.twitter.com/9wp5MLkyup
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 23, 2022
That said, Elliott could be a valuable addition for New York. Hall is coming back from a torn ACL that cut short an impressive rookie season in 2022. He may not be 100 percent by time the season begins, so the Jets need a quality back to share the load with Hall. Even with quite a bit of wear and tear on his body, Elliott is a significant upgrade over Carter, Zonovan “Bam” Knight and Ty Johnson.
Carter was a major disappointment last season. He rushed for 402 yards and averaged 3.5 yards per carry, struggling mightily after Hall went down in Week 8. Carter, who led New York with 639 yards rushing (4.3 yards per carry) as a rookie in 2021, was surpassed by Knight, an undrafted rookie, on the depth chart late in the season.
Elliott, albeit behind a better offensive line, rushed for 876 yards with Dallas last season. He averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per carry and was supplanted as the Cowboys’ No. 1 back by Tony Pollard. But there’s still tread on the tires for him to shine in a secondary role. Perhaps Elliot's arrival would light a fire under Carter.
.@Dak Prescott on the legacy @EzekielElliott leaves with the Dallas Cowboys: "He played this game, did everything about this game the right way… when it was time to lock in, when it was time to focus, and to give everything that you had… Zeke was a guy to follow." pic.twitter.com/Si0alVk2vM
— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) March 17, 2023
Elliott still is a power back and exceptionally tough near the goal line, an area where Jets backs were largely ineffective last season. Elliott had 12 rushing touchdowns in 2022 and has 68 in seven NFL seasons.
Zeke will be 28 this season and has yet to win a Super Bowl. Winning is a clear motivation as he pursues the Jets, Bengals and Eagles. And being released by the Cowboys, where he’s their third-leading rusher all time, is also a major motivator.
Not to be overlooked is that Elliott, by all accounts, is an excellent teammate. He supported Pollard and never complained about a reduced role. That's not easy for a back who ran for 1,000 yards four times and led the NFL in rushing twice in seven seasons with the Cowboys.
There are other free agent options for the Jets if they want to upgrade as a complement to Hall. Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette come to mind.
Ezekiel Elliott, though, is the better option, even if his best days are behind him … as long as he comes in at the right price and accepts his role.