As is the case with many holdouts, it appears the situation has deteriorated quite quickly down in Dallas. Ezekiel Elliott has yet to report to training camp. Jerry Jones compared the holdout to if his hand was nearly severed in a car crash (?). Backup and rookie running back Tony Pollard has performed admirably during Zeke's absence. Now, Elliott and his agent are displeased, to say the least, with Jones' most recent public comments after the owner jokingly responded, “Zeke who?” to a reporter after the Cowboys' Saturday night preseason victory.
Jones probably should not have said that and I'm sure Elliott and his agent are a bit mad about it, but it strikes me as posturing and a part of the negotiations more than an actual rift beginning to form. BUT… What if this is a sign that the relationship is beyond repair? It would take a lot for the Cowboys to consider moving on from Elliott, but that unlikely circumstance grows more and more possible with each passing day. Let's say, just for a second, the Cowboys did decide to trade Elliott. He'd go to a team close to contention and willing to part with both good young players as well as a few high draft picks. They'd also likely have to give Elliott an extension, otherwise, he's back where he's started, just not in Texas.
Unlikely? Absolutely. Possible? Until the holdout ends, we can't rule it out. To that end, here are three teams who should reach out and think about a trade for Elliott and the skillset he brings as an All-Pro running back, should the Cowboys go in that direction.
The need to take the load off Andrew Luck recently became greater after his mysterious calf injury suddenly became an ankle injury and he was declared out for the preseason. What better way to take care of him than giving him an All-Pro backfield partner? Elliott would have an offensive line of similar quality to run behind and a lot more space to operate; teams wouldn't dare stack the box against Luck and T.Y. Hilton, injury or no injury. Marlon Mack is a good running back, but not as well-rounded or explosive as Elliott.
The Colts also have the assets and cap space to make a move for someone like Zeke thanks to the asset-hoarding tendencies of GM Chris Ballard. This sort of big-splash move isn't really his forte, but it's not often they can acquire a player of Elliott's quality. He'd catapult them into the same category as the Patriots and Chiefs for the top threats to the AFC's crown and would open up the field for Luck on play-action unlike anyone he's ever had. The price is steep, but if Ballard wants to make his team a legitimate threat against the high-powered Chiefs, it's the move to make.
The Seahawks were this generation's version of a smash-mouth offense with a nasty attitude to boot. Those days are long gone. Trading for Elliott would revive them, in a way. Russell Wilson has become a much more complete quarterback than when Marshawn Lynch was his running mate, and an elite back is a luxury, not a necessity for Seattle's offense nowadays. But it's a luxury that would immediately make Seattle a contender. Elliott has the talent to overcome their offensive line struggles, even if he won't produce at the clip he does behind his monsters in Dallas. His presence would make up for the lack of receivers and pull the defense in far enough that D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett can get behind them. Chris Carson is fine, but doesn't hold a candle to Elliott from what we've seen so far.
Wilson can do everything by himself, but Seattle shouldn't want him to do everything by himself. Elliott's addition would give the team their first legitimate ground game since Lynch's first retirement. It wouldn't leave a lot of money to help the defense, but Pete Carroll is good enough to make a decent defense (at the worst) with the roster as its currently constructed. To return to the big game for the first time since 2014, Seattle needs something more. That something could be Elliott.
San Francisco 49ers
The clock is ticking for the team of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. They've suffered through two brutal losing seasons so far as the decision-makers for the franchise; 2018 can be excused thanks to Jimmy Garoppolo's ACL injury, but a third straight year of on-field ineptitude would call into question just what they're doing out there. Lynch isn't afraid to make a big move after trading for Dee Ford this offseason. Elliott would provide another dimension to the offense that Shanahan hasn't yet been granted in his short tenure. They don't really have a future at the position, and Tevin Coleman is a good receiving back but not great between the tackles. Garoppolo could use all the help he can get as he strives to prove his half-season as a starter wasn't a fluke.
It's a move that might reek of desperation, and perhaps that's the only way it'll go down. But NFL owners aren't exactly known for their patience, and the Niners are facing enough heat from their fanbase over their Santa Clara stadium. They need to see success, and they need to see it now. Elliott instantly makes them a league-average offense, and that's before Garoppolo shows what he's got. If he ends up league-average and not above-average like they believed, Zeke can help them tread water while they figure out what to do with him. If Garoppolo is as good as his contract numbers would indicate, their offense is at the top of the league. A risky maneuver, but one worth taking for Lynch and Shanahan in a critical season.