When the Dallas Cowboys released Ezekiel Elliott, it was mainly a cap-saving move, as he was in the middle of a 5-year $90 million contract. Running backs don't make these kinds of deals anymore; we just saw a similar cap casualty happen with the Minnesota Vikings releasing four-time Pro bowler Dalvin Cook.
Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio has habitually targeted low-risk, high-reward short-term signings during his visits as a GM to the free agency pool. Elliott represents a similar strategy. The fact that the 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year has yet to be signed likely means there isn't much of a market for him yet.
This creates an excellent opportunity for the texting to swoop in and sign a running back with a particular skill set that helps their offense run more smoothly. If the Houston Texans can ink Elliot to a one-year, $4M deal, he can create competition in an already competitive running back room. Similar to last year's signing of Marlon Mack, though a less prestigious career than Elliott, when Mack did not work out, the team moved on from him.
Ezekiel Elliott still has a role and much to give to an NFL franchise. If he agrees to a one-year prove-it deal with Houston, it's worth it for Houston.