Dallas Cowboys fans remain confident that they will compete this season, with or without Ezekiel Elliott. If they are counting on rookie Tony Pollard (who had 16 yards rushing in the Cowboys preseason loss to the San Francisco 49ers) to replace Zeke, then Dallas needs to end Elliott’s holdout today.
Keeping with this burgeoning idea that running backs are somewhat interchangeable, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expressed confidence that Pollard can hold down the fort until Zeke’s contract is resolved. He obviously saw something that no one else did.
“I certainly thought he had a good account of himself,” Jones said, via David Helman of Cowboys.com. “He looks confident out there, we know he’s inordinately understanding of what he does and can do. We’ve seen him do it, we know he’s capable of if he really needs to, carry the whole load.”
After the Cowboys anemic rushing performance, ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky didn’t share Jones’ optimism.
“If this was a battle Ezekiel Elliott won the weekend,” Orlovsky said.
The star running back is holding out for a new contract even though he has two years still remaining on his current deal and that’s pissing off some Cowboys fans with Super Bowl hopes and ownership. That being said, there are currently nine NFL running backs making more scratch than Zeke and he has made it clear that he’s willing to sit out the season if his contract demands aren’t met.
According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, “there is no breakthrough with the signing…” but she also said that she spoke to a Dallas team source about rumors that the team is currently offering Zeke a similar deal to the one Le’Veon Bell received, which is about $13.1 million per year on average.
However, the team source said that Zeke is next up for a Todd Gurley-level contract, which acknowledges that Zeke should be the highest-paid running back in the league.
The Cowboys who have contract decisions looming with quarterback Dak Prescott and No. 1 wide receiver Amari Cooper are also playing hardball and uninterested in cutting a deal with Zeke two years before his 2021 free agency.
Speaking on KCKT-AM in Dallas on Wednesday, Stephen Jones, the Cowboys’ executive vice president, said the team has no intention of setting the standard when it comes to NFL running-back pay.
“We’ve got three really good football players that we’re dealing with here and that have very good representation. And they want to see the market,” Jones said. “We can’t push the issue unless we want to be a market-setter. And we’re damn sure not going to be a market-setter, because of all the things that go with being a Dallas Cowboy.”
Todd Gurley set the market when he signed a four-year, $57.5 million contract that included $21.9 million fully guaranteed with the Rams last year. Le’Veon Bell held out for an entire season with the Pittsburgh Steelers and then got a $52.5 million bag from the Jets with $27 million guaranteed.
San Diego Chargers All-Pro back Melvin Gordon is currently holding out as well.
Elliott wants a bigger contract than all of the aforementioned backs because of his record-setting production, workload and being the main man of Dallas’ offense the past three seasons while helping the development of Prescott.
Dallas Cowboys fans had high hopes for this upcoming season and are dying for a quick resolution. Some see Elliott as invaluable and insist that Jones should get the deal done. Other fans, however, are frustrated with Zeke’s absence at camp and are selfishly critical of Elliott, berating and belittling him on Twitter.
The NFL is a business and for so many years, the players have gone along with that business with very little resistance. The player’s empowerment movement, Colin Kaepernick‘s kneeling and discoveries about the dangers of CTE and brain damage have changed players’ attitudes on contracts and how long they truly want to play. If an NFL player hopes to have a high quality of life after retirement, he has to get his money early and get out early.
Elliott plays an offensive position that requires taking heavy punishment, so he also has to protect himself financially. Who knows how much money a top running back with six heavy-lifting years under his belt will command on the market in 2021-22? The NFL is a pass-first league and run-first backs are already considered passé.
Zeke has dual abilities, but his bread and butter is the run game. He’s led the NFL in rushing for two years. Zeke isn’t willing to touch the ball probably more than any player in the NFL for the next two seasons without securing the bag first. If he gets injured before he becomes a free agent that could cost him millions of dollars.
Combine that with the changing financial landscape for running backs and it’s totally understandable why he’s holding out. All of that junk about honoring contracts with owners who wouldn’t even honor a stand against social injustice is hogwash.
The bottom line is dollars and if you are performing at the level that Elliott has since he entered the league (over 4000 rushing yards and 1199 receiving yards) you can make these kinds of demands. Especially since Dallas has recently awarded contracts to key position players with years left on their original deals in Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick.
Despite Elliott’s All-Pro play, the organization seems more focused on securing its quarterback position. When you compare Zeke as a back to Prescott as a starting QB they rank in different stratospheres. Zeke is Top 3 at his position and Prescott is barely Top 12. Dallas knows this and the team needs to stop playing hardball. Without Zeke and his elite abilities, a Super Bowl dream will become a fleeting fantasy with every regular-season game he misses.