Browns rumored to have interest in Ezekiel Elliott
By Josh Aul
According to a report by Sportskeeda, the Cleveland Browns have been linked to former Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott was a cap casualty for the Cowboys after seven successful seasons with the team. Though he noticeably lost a step in 2022 and was overtaken on the Cowboys depth chart by backup Tony Pollard, Elliott still has plenty of production to offer the Browns if they bring him in and utilize him appropriately.
Nick Chubb is clearly Cleveland's top running back, and no free agent signing or trade is going to change that. Browns fans tend to be sensitive toward the subject of adding running backs to the roster, but the reality is the position is one that suffers the most injuries during an NFL season. With only second-year back Jerome Ford, who had just eight total carries in 2022, to go alongside Chubb, the Browns need to solidify their running back depth.
Elliott was the fourth overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft after an impressive career at Ohio State. While the former Buckeye is not the runner he was in his younger years, the Browns wouldn't need him to be. What the Browns need is someone who can spell Chubb for a few series throughout the game, make plays on passing downs, and protect the quarterback.
In 2022, Elliott had just 17 receptions for 92 yards. But like I mentioned, a lot of the passing game work went to Pollard. Over his career, Elliott has racked up 305 receptions for 2,336 yards. If the Browns deploy Elliott the way they did Kareem Hunt in the short-area and screen passing game, the seven-year veteran could find some big success given the attention that will be assigned to the other weapons on the field.
But the biggest role Elliott would fill, in my opinion at least, comes in pass protection. Elliott came into the league as a fairly polished pass protector, never shying away from contact and actually looking to take on defenders in the backfield. And he's only gotten better. In 2022, Elliott posted a 97.8% pass-blocking efficiency according to PFF, which was 3rd best in the NFL among running backs. He played on 52 total pass blocking snaps and only allowed two total pressures the entire season with zero sacks and zero hits on the quarterback.
The Browns have done everything they can to provide quarterback Deshaun Watson with weapons on offense. For me, Elliott would be less of an offensive weapon and more of an offensive shield. In obvious passing situations when the defense is knowingly bringing pressure, Elliott would be a strong extra pass protector in the backfield beside Watson.
And while Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott isn't the runner that Watson is, he's still on the mobile side when it comes to quarterbacks. So Elliott understands how to pass block for a signal caller who doesn't just stand stationary in the pocket.
Whatever happens with Elliott, the Browns must add more depth to the running back position. The team is not rolling into 2023 with just two guys on the depth chart, and it's unlikely the Browns will rely on a disappointing Demetric Felton and a UDFA in what is clearly a win-now mentality for Cleveland.
If the Browns can get Elliott on a one-year deal that fits the budget, why not bring in as much proven talent this season as possible?