FRISCO, Texas -- The Ezekiel Elliott era is officially over in Dallas.
The Cowboys released the two-time NFL rushing champ and the running back is ready to start fresh with a new team.
Elliott and his agent were informed of the decision Wednesday afternoon, just before the official 3 p.m. start of the 2023 calendar year when teams were required to be under the salary cap.
Owner Jerry Jones said decision to move on from Elliott was a difficult one but it was one that had to be made in the best in the team and the running back.
"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," Jones said in a statement. "This is one of the toughest parts of operating a team. Moments like this come, and extremely difficult decisions and choices are made. For the franchise. For me personally. For players too. We will always have a special place and love for Zeke and what he means to our Cowboys family, both as a person and a player. That will never change."
Elliott will be remembered as the ultimate team player who gave his all on the field and showed tremendous leadership in the locker room. Jones also lauded Elliott for his impact in the community during his seven years with the Cowboys.
"Zeke's impact and influence is seared into the Cowboys franchise in a very special and indelible way," Jones said. "He has been a consummate professional and leader that set a tone in our locker room, on the practice field and in the huddle. Zeke defined what a great teammate should be, and anyone that has ever played a team sport would be lucky to have a teammate like Zeke and be much better for it. His commitment and passion for winning is selfless, and the accountability he brings everyday earned the respect of our coaches, his teammates and our entire organization.
"He wore the Cowboys Star with pride and purpose every single time he put it on, and we're a better franchise because of the example he set for veterans and rookies alike. That carried over into our community as well, with Zeke's generosity and spirit about giving and caring for others."
This day, however, did not come as a surprise.
Elliott's future has been in doubt since the end of the 2022 season.
Elliott, who came to the Cowboys as the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NFL draft, was set to count $16.4 million against the 2023 salary cap with a non guaranteed $10.4 million base salary.
After rushing for a career-low 876 yards and averaging a career-low 3.9 yards per carry, while watching Tony Pollard surpass him as the team's primary running back, a pay cut or release was inevitable.
And when the Cowboys gave Pollard, the franchise tag of $10.1 million, ballooning the salary for the running back room to an NFL-record high $27.68 million in 2023, this day of reckoning was at hand.
While Jones said at the NFL combine last month that he wanted to find a way to continue with Elliott and Pollard at running back in 2023, finding a number suitable for both sides proved to be a bridge too far.
Because the Cowboys designated Elliott a post-June 1 cut, they will save $10.9 million on the salary cap.
He is free to sign with another team in free agency immediately.
Where and what role remains to be seen for Elliott, whose diminished production played a huge role in his release from the Cowboys.
After rushing for more than 1,000 yards in three of his first four seasons, including two rushing titles, Elliott has only surpassed that number once in the past three seasons.
His decline came after he signed a six-year, $90 million contract in 2019, thus has causing the narrative about Elliott's effort and play that belied his value to the franchise as a leader.
The guarantees ended in Elliott's contract after last season, forcing him to enter the 2022 season with his future hanging over his head.
After playing through a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Elliott missed two games in 2022 after suffering a hyperextension of the same knee. The running back termed the injury torn medial collateral ligament.
Elliott played the final 10 games of the season with a brace on the knee.
He didn't need offseason surgery and will start anew healthy in 2023 with another team.
Elliott ends his Cowboys career with 8,262 rushing yards and 68 rushing touchdowns and 80 total touchdowns, ranking third in franchise history in all three categories behind Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett.
The decision with Elliott puts the Cowboys squarely in the market for a running back in the draft and free agency with Pollard on the hook in 2023 on a one-year franchise tag and 2022 undrafted rookie Malik Davis as the only other running back on the roster.