Ezekiel Elliott is one free agent the Saints should avoid
We know the New Orleans Saints are looking for help at running back — they struggled to play the style of run-first football Dennis Allen envisioned last season, and now they’re going into 2023 with a lengthy suspension looming for Alvin Kamara, who hasn’t been as effective in recent years without a quality player to split carries with. Now that free agency has begun in earnest, it’s easy to connect some dots. Just don’t try and connect the Saints to Ezekiel Elliott.
Sure, on paper, the move makes a certain kind of sense. Elliott is the most accomplished running back on the market. He also would not factor into the 2024 compensatory draft pick formula after being let go by the Dallas Cowboys. That appeals to teams like the Saints, who could receive the maximum four comp picks in next year’s cycle. Elliott can lead a backfield without shaking up any long-term plans. Plus, he’s a former Ohio State Buckeye and college teammate of Michael Thomas and Marshon Lattimore. The Columbus-to-New Orleans pipeline is well established.
But Elliott might be cooked. He’s twice led the league in rushing attempts (in 2016 and 2018), and he’s only averaged fewer than 15 carries per game once, when he paced 13.9 each week in 2021. He and Mark Ingram are the only active players with more than 1,800 career rushing attempts. The Cowboys ran him into the ground and then cut him loose once his production tailed off. Jerry Jones’ loyalty to homegrown talent is well known, but even he wasn’t able to justify keeping Elliott around any longer.
The Saints need to be getting younger and more dynamic at running back. There’s still a role in this league for a short-yardage specialist and reliable pass protector like Elliott, but he doesn’t fit the job description New Orleans should be consulting. There are similar free agents available like former Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets running back James Robinson, who is three years younger than Elliott with 1,300 fewer career carries (and who also won’t cost the Saints a comp pick). Elliott’s resume might be enticing, but it’s also a turnoff.
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