FRISCO, Texas — Ezekiel Elliott has reached a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys that has a maximum value of $3 million, sources told ESPN on Monday, reuniting him with the franchise that took him with the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft.

Elliott and his agent, Rocky Arceneaux, met with the Cowboys before last week’s draft and eventually ended up at the same restaurant, Dee Lincoln Prime, where the team was holding its scouts dinner before the draft.

“Well, Zeke, as we all know, is one of our favorites,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Thursday. “He’s laid it on the line for this franchise. He’s the ultimate competitor. I mean, he’s a guy that we obviously think a lot of.”

Having lost leading rusher Tony Pollard in free agency to the Tennessee Titans, the Cowboys are looking at going with a committee approach at running back. Dallas re-signed last year’s backup, Rico Dowdle, and added veteran Royce Freeman in free agency. The Cowboys also have Deuce Vaughn, a sixth-round pick last year, Malik Davis, and Hunter Luepke on the roster.

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Elliott’s return calls to mind Herschel Walker‘s second stint with the Cowboys. Walker was the Cowboys’ leading rusher from 1986 to ’89 before his famous trade to the Minnesota Vikings that helped Dallas turn into a three-time Super Bowl champion in the 1990s under Jimmy Johnson. He returned to the Cowboys in 1996, seeing action behind Emmitt Smith while being the lead kickoff returner.

The Cowboys did not select a running back in the draft, despite their lack of depth at the position on the current roster. Dallas contemplated selecting a running back in the third round, but opted for linebacker Marist Liufau instead. Without a fourth-round pick, the Cowboys saw 12 running backs go off the board from when they picked Liufau (No. 87 overall) to when they picked in the fifth round at No. 174.

“I think a lot of times there is a question of, ‘Will you really, really stick to your board?’ It just felt like every time the situation was there for us to make a pick and do the right thing, it wasn’t at running back,” Jones said at the draft’s conclusion Saturday. “We had running backs, and we’d be thinking, ‘OK, our pick is coming in 10 picks; eight picks; five picks away,’ then he might be taken.

“We obviously had a group of running backs there in that space where I think there were 75-85 players that we had to watch leave the board. We had a handful of backs that we would have considered, but it just didn’t work out.”

Even if the Cowboys had selected a running back, they were still going to add Elliott, who was a salary cap casualty of Dallas’ roster last year before eventually signing with the New England Patriots.

Elliott played 51% of the offensive snaps and — running behind a mix-and-match offensive line — finished with a team-high 642 yards on 184 carries (3.5 average) with three touchdowns. He added a team-high 51 receptions for 313 yards (6.1 average) and two touchdowns.

Elliott, who turns 29 in July, saw a significant increase in workload in the final five weeks of the year after top rusher Rhamondre Stevenson was sidelined with a high ankle sprain.

But the Cowboys will not ask Elliott to be the dominant back he was for a good portion of his first tenure with the club that left him as the organization’s third all-time leading rusher behind Hall Smith and Tony Dorsett.

From 2016 to ’22 with the Cowboys, Elliott ran for 8,262 yards. The three-time Pro Bowler set team rookie records with 1,631 yards and posted 30 100-yard games in his time with the Cowboys. He also led the NFL in rushing in 2016 and 2018 but has not topped 1,000 yards since 2020 (1,002).