The Buffalo Bills have made several moves since the start of free agency, but they have yet to address their backfield. With Devin Singletary expected to walk in free agency, several sources, from both teams and agents, “almost unanimously” told Heavy Sports analyst Matt Lombardo to keep an eye on the Bills amid Ezekiel Elliott‘s release from the Dallas Cowboys.
Even though he still had four seasons remaining on the six-year $90 million contract he signed in 2019, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones released an official statement on March 15 that read, “We have mutually agreed with Zeke that the best decision for everyone is that he will be able to experience free agency, and we can increase our flexibility and options as well. This is one of the toughest parts of operating a team.”
The 27-year-old’s release will be processed as a post-June 1 cut, so the Cowboys will save $10.9 million, but will have to account for $11.86 million of dead money split between the 2023 and 2024 season, per Cowboys’ columnist Mickey Spagnola. As for the nearly $65 million left on the remainder of Elliott’s contract — none of that was guaranteed.
Therefore, if the Bills were looking to add the former No. 4 overall pick from the 2016 NFL Draft, they could land him on a significantly cheaper prove-it type of deal. An agent familiar with the running back market told Lombardo, “He’s not going to get big money this time around.”
Bills general manager Brandon Beane said during a press conference on Thursday, March 16 that the team has approximately $9 million left to spend, and while they need to save a chunk of that for the NFL Draft, he noted they weren’t “necessarily done” with making moves in free agency. “There could even be more cap casualties as guys are added.”
Elliott Is Coming Off the Worst Season of His Career
Elliott’s fall from grace came to a head during the 2022 NFL season. In 15 game appeerances, the Ohio State alum “set career lows in rushing attempts (231), rushing yards (876), yards per carry (3.8), targets (23), receptions (17) and receiving yards (92), while failing to record a receiving touchdown for the first time in his seven NFL seasons,” Yarbarker reported.
Elliott, who exits Dallas as the franchise’s third all-time leading rusher with a total of 8,262 yards, still led the team in rushing touchdowns (12), and earned an overall 71.9 grade from Pro Football Focus.
However, Elliot’s career-worst season was still statistically better than Singletary’s, who was the Bills No. 1 running back last year. The Bills’ third-round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft recorded 177 carries for 819 yards and five rushing touchdowns during the regular season, earning a 75.9 overall rating from PFF. During the Bills’ two postseason games, Singletary added another 16 rushes for 60 yards, along with five receptions for 38 yards.
Twitter Had Strongly Mixed Reactions to Elliott Possibly Landing in Buffalo
The Bills run game has long been under scrutiny considering quarterback Josh Allen, drafted in 2018, already ranks as the 11th leading rusher in franchise history with 3,087 career rushing yards, while Singletary ranks 10th with 3,151 yards.
While Singletary’s future remains unknown, the Bills moved to restructure Nyheim Hines‘ contract to keep him through the 2023 NFL season, and there’s hope that running back James Cook can take things to the next level in his sophomore year. A source told Lombardo that the reasoning for the Bills interest in Elliott is that “Buffalo is looking for a big back, and Zeke checks that box.”
However, the idea of adding the three-time Pro Bowler was met with a strongly mixed reaction on Twitter. One man tweeted, “Zero interest if I’m Buffalo. Maybe, maybe on a veteran minimum deal where he has to try to make the team in camp. Otherwise, hard pass,” while another person wrote, “Idk why all the Bills fans are so mad. Cook will still be the number 1 back and we need a guy who can thrive in short yardage. Don’t have to sneak it w JA everytime now and he’s a great pass blocker. I doubt he’ll be crazy expensive and it’ll be a short term deal. Not bad IMO.”