For Ezekiel Elliott, it’s new team, new number. The now-former Cowboy hopes to toss his No. 21 and go with some new digits.
At least that’s what he indicated on Twitter on Thursday morning. Elliott tweeted: “I want my #15 back.”
That definitely can happen. But it could cost the tailback, depending on the team.
When Ezekiel Elliott Joined Cowboys, NFL Still Restricted Numbers for Tailbacks
So here’s the deal. When the Cowboys drafted Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth pick of the 2016 NFL draft, running backs could only wear specific uniform numbers between 20 and 49. So Elliott chose 21. He definitely could make that number his own identity. Elliott probably wanted to avoid Emmitt Smith’s No. 22 or Tony Dorsett’s 33. And if you go deep into Dallas tailback history, Elliott probably didn’t want to tamper with the jersey identities of classic Cowboys like No. 35 Calvin Hill or No. 43 Don Perkins.
Elliott definitely repped 21 very well. His career yardage of 8,262 yards ranks third in Dallas history behind Smith, who owns the NFL career record, and Dorsett. The two runners ahead of Ezekiel Elliott are in the Hall of Fame.
If you’ve followed Elliott’s career, then you know he did amazing things while wearing No. 15 in Ohio State’s scarlet and gray. No tailback had a better run through the college football playoffs than Elliott did at the end of the 2014 season. He rushed for 230 yards in the Buckeyes semifinal victory over Alabama and its vaunted SEC defense. Elliott followed that with 246 yards and four touchdowns in Ohio State’s win over Oregon for the national title.
And now, No. 15 has reopened as an option for Ezekiel Elliott. That’s because the NFL tweaked the jersey rules before the 2021 season. The Kansas City Chiefs submitted a suggestion to adjust the jersey restrictions for certain positions. The rules opened up the popular single digits. And the NFL allowed running backs, tight ends, fullbacks, H-backs and receivers to choose numbers between 1-49 and 80-89.
Now, where does Ezekiel Elliott play next? The Cowboys released him last Wednesday. And there’s not much hope of Dallas deciding to bring him back. The Cowboys signed Ronald Jones this week. Meanwhile, Dallas also placed the franchise tag on Tony Pollard and couldn’t keep Elliott and his $16 million salary left over from his 2019 negotiated deal. Elliott, who won NFL rushing titles in 2016 and 2018, hit a wall, production-wise, over the last three years. He set career lows for carries (231) and yards (876).
The Bills were in the market for a running back. But they signed former Patriot Damien Harris. Adam Schefter reported Thursday that Zeke is down to the Bengals, Eagles or Jets.
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell believes Tampa could be a landing spot for Elliott. The Bucs may emphasize the run more now that Tom Brady retired. Barnwell wrote: “Possible deal: One year, $4 million with the Buccaneers. Here, he would be part of a split backfield alongside Rachaad White, who would serve as the team’s primary pass-catcher out of the backfield. Elliott would be an early-down runner and much-needed pass protection specialist for an offense currently expected to start Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask at quarterback.”