Dalvin Cook & Ezekiel Elliott Finally Have New Homes: Who Will Have The Bigger Impact??

A pair of former All-Pro running backs made their much-anticipated free agent decisions yesterday.

While both have marquee names, one (Dalvin Cook) was much more sought after and is expected to have a much bigger impact than the other (Ezekiel Elliott).

Cook, who recently turned 28, is finalizing a one-year contract valued at a potential $8.6 million with the New York Jets.

Having achieved four consecutive Pro Bowl selections during his time with the Minnesota Vikings, Cook was released on June 8th.

This strategic move serves to provide additional support to Aaron Rodgers, offering him another reliable playmaker. Rodgers had voluntarily agreed to a substantial reduction of $35 million in his salary, thus creating financial flexibility to secure high-impact players like Cook.

The seasoned running back had visited the Jets facilities for an extensive period last month.

With the return of Breece Hall, their primary running back, following recovery from ACL surgery, the Jets aimed to fortify their running game with an accomplished veteran.

The Jets had sustained interest in Cook, with Coach Robert Saleh recently expressing, “Certainly, you wouldn’t want to turn down an exceptional player.”

Although the Jets express optimism about Hall’s readiness for the September 11th opener game against the Bills, he remains on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, and time is becoming scarce.

Saleh remains confident in the backup options of Zonovan Knight and Michael Carter. However, their performance last season yielded average gains of only 3.5 yards per carry, placing them at 58th and 59th out of 59 players with a minimum of 80 attempts.

Additionally, the Jets have a rookie in Israel Abanikanda, a fifth-round selection from Pitt.

As Cook continues his recovery from a shoulder surgery undergone in February, it is projected that he will be ready to participate in practice in approximately a week.

Cook’s addition to the Jets roster is part of their significant offensive overhaul, including the acquisition of Rodgers, signings of wide receivers Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman, among others. 

In Cook, the Jets acquire a highly accomplished runner, ranking among the most prolific in the league. Since 2019, he has maintained an average of 111 scrimmage yards per game, trailing only Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans (126).

Cook’s one-cut running style is expected to seamlessly align with the Jets outside zone running scheme. Gang Green, who have not featured a 1,000-yard rusher since 2015, gain a player who has achieved four consecutive seasons of surpassing 1,000 rushing yards.

Coach Saleh acknowledged Cook’s history of dynamic ball-carrying and described their meeting as productive, highlighting Cook’s clear goals and solid planning.

However, Cook’s arrival brings along certain uncertainties. He has grappled with persistent shoulder injuries since college, culminating in surgery on February 14. Although he managed to play in every game last season despite a separated shoulder, his per-carry average hit a career-low of 4.4.

He led the league with 62 carries resulting in losses or no gains, and merely 34.5% of his carries exceeded the expected yardage, marking the second-lowest rate among running backs with over 200 carries in 2022.

Meanwhile, Zeke Elliott took to social media on Monday to announce his signing with the New England Patriots.

In a tweet, Elliott shared his excitement, saying, “One Five, all the way live! @Patriots,” referring to his intention to wear jersey number 15, the same number he wore during his college days at Ohio State.

During his time with the Cowboys, he donned the number 21.

The move aimed bolsters the Patriots running back depth, which was considered thin. His contract includes a $3 million base salary, along with a $1 million signing bonus that could potentially reach up to $6 million with added incentives.

Having spent the majority of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, Elliott is anticipated to serve as a valuable complement to the primary running option, Rhamondre Stevenson.

Under the guidance of Bill Belichick, the Patriots have historically shared the workload between two running backs for early-down plays.

It’s been revealed that Belichick directly consulted with Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones to gain insights into Elliott’s abilities before his visit on July 29th, as reported by ESPN’s Ed Werder.

This visit marked Elliott’s first engagement with a team since his release from the Cowboys. During his time in New England, he had the opportunity to interact with various team officials, including a meal shared with Patriots quarterback Mac Jones.

Although Elliott’s performance saw a dip in 2022 with a career-low of 876 rushing yards, he managed to score 12 touchdowns and maintained his reputation as a dependable short-yardage rusher and pass protector.

However, his average of 3.9 yards per touch last season was the lowest among the 51 running backs with a minimum of 100 touches, according to statistics from ESPN Stats & Information research.

A noteworthy matchup is set for Sunday, October 21st, in Week 4 of the season, as the Patriots are scheduled to face the Cowboys.

Throughout training camp, the Patriots running back depth has been a concern. While Stevenson has been the lead option, second-year players Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris have provided backup support.

However, Strong, a fourth-round draft pick from South Dakota State in 2022, has been absent from practice for undisclosed reasons. Additionally, veteran Ty Montgomery has been sidelined due to a left leg/knee injury sustained during the second practice of camp.

The depth chart is rounded out by third-year player J.J Taylor and former USFL rusher C.J. Marable.

What do you think about both signings?

How much do both have left in the tank?

Who will end up having a bigger impact this season?

 

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