3 moves Cowboys still need to make to give Ezekiel Elliott a ring

Veteran running back Ezekiel Elliot said his decision to return to the Dallas Cowboys via free agency this offseason was because of his desire to win a Super Bowl. But the franchise still has a few moves they must make to help him get his first ring.
Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys
Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

After being released by the Dallas Cowboys last March as a cap casualty and spending the 2023 NFL season playing for the New England Patriots, veteran running back Ezekiel Elliot returned to the team via free agency and made it clear that he has one thing in mind: winning a Super Bowl

However, Elliot's comments don't match the activity, or lack thereof, of owner/president Jerry Jones and the Cowboys thus far during the offseason. While you can argue that Dallas has gone 12-5 three years in a row and doesn't need to change much, their playoff shortcomings say otherwise, and even Pro Bowl edge rusher Micah Parsons is fed up with it. 

But there is still time for Jones and the Cowboys to bolster the roster ahead of the 2024 campaign, with these three moves taking priority if they want to handle the unfinished business they started with Zeke when they selected him fourth overall in the 2016 NFL Draft and give him a ring as he enters the twilight of his career.

3. Re-sign Stephon Gilmore

The Cowboys traded their 2023 fifth-round pick (which turned out to be running back Evan Hull) to the Indianapolis Colts last offseason for 2019 AP Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, who proved to be a valuable addition to a Dallas secondary that lost Pro Bowl cornerback Trevon Diggs to a torn ACL during practice after their Week 2 win against the New York Jets.

Gilmore appeared in every game for the Cowboys, logging a 94 percent defensive snap rate and recording a career-high 68 combined tackles, 13 pass deflections, two interceptions, and a forced fumble en route to earning an overall Pro Football Focus player grade of 74.4

While Dallas anticipates having Diggs for the start of training camp and has All-Pro corner and defensive touchdown machine DaRon Bland to line up on the other side of the field, retaining a veteran like Gilmore who can slide inside and man the slot as a talented albeit aging (turns 34 in September) cover corner or serve as a depth option can't hurt.

Whether intentional or not, Elliot may have given Cowboys fans a massive hint about Gilmore's future with the franchise by choosing the No. 15 (what he wore with the Patriots and in college at Ohio State) as his jersey number instead of No. 21 -- which he donned for his initial seven-year stint with the Cowboys before the latter claimed it last season.

2. Bring in more RB competition

If Elliot is serious about returning to Dallas to chase a ring, he can't be the top running back on the depth chart at this stage in his career, which is why the Cowboys need to bring in additional backfield competition.

Undrafted fourth-year running back Rico Dowdle is the next-best option currently on the roster, who tallied a career-high 89 carries in 2023 and averaged a pedestrian 4.1 yards per attempt -- that will not get the job done for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

Whether it be Jerick McKinnon, Cam Akers, Kareem Hunt, Latavius Murray, or Matt Breida, several solid albeit less-than-spectacular veteran options on the open market have shown they can handle reasonable workloads as reliable options. But not having an alternative option(s) to turn to when the tandem of Elliot and Dowdle struggle to help move the chains consistently could come back to haunt the Cowboys. 

An unbalanced offense and underwhelming rushing attack derailed a high-powered Cowboys offense and made them one-dimensional at times last year. Why risk letting history repeat itself rather than taking a flier on a free agent?

1. Reunite with Connor Williams

2020 fourth-round pick and center Tyler Biadasz cashed out in free agency this offseason, leaving the Cowboys to sign a three-year, $29.25 million contract with their divisional rivals, the Washington Commanders. Now Dallas has a massive void to fill in the middle of their offensive line, opening the door for them to reunite with a familiar face -- Connor Williams.

The Cowboys drafted Williams in 2018, and he spent the first four years of his career with them before doing what Biadasz did, chasing the bag and earning a large chunk of change elsewhere (only he wound up on the Miami Dolphins). However, he is a free agent again and could return to Dallas as a savior after initially leaving them.

Despite tearing his ACL in Week 14 last season, Williams earned the second-highest overall Pro Football Focus grade among centers (86.5), trailing only Detroit Lions Pro Bowler Frank Ragnow. He would instantly slot in as the starter for the Cowboys ahead of Brock Hoffman (who has made two starts in his career) and provide an instant boost to a Cowboys offensive line that lost Biadasz and stalwart left tackle Tyron Smith this offseason.