Ezekiel Elliott is the most important player on the Dallas Cowboys’ offense. Still, owner Jerry Jones would be wise to consider many factors.
Priorities. The Cowboys should keep the word in mind throughout the next few weeks and months.
Dallas has a trio of high-profile players scheduled for unrestricted free agency in March including quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper and cornerback Byron Jones. All this must be remembered when dealing with running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott, 24, has led the league twice in rushing yards over his first three seasons. He’s phenomenal and the engine to Dallas’ offense. He also has two years remaining on his rookie deal and could be controlled through another two campaigns via the franchise tag. If Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones wants to eventually sign Elliott to a long-term deal, fantastic. It just shouldn’t be before pacts with Prescott and Cooper, at minimum, are locked up.
However, there’s an emerging rub. Elliott is apparently willing to skip training camp past Aug. 6. Why does this matter? Because it’s the deadline for accruing a year towards free agency. If Elliott comes back now, he’ll be playing out this entire season without getting closer to a huge payday. In essence, Elliott likely feels he must get a new contract or sit out for a significant portion of the regular season — if not all of it, as reported by ESPN’s Josina Anderson — to make this move worth his while.
So what does it mean? For starters, Elliott is entrenched. Without him, the Cowboys have a very limited offense. With him, the Cowboys could go to the Super Bowl.
The compromise is to give him an extension that doesn’t reset the market. Dallas has $23 million in cap space this season and approximately $75 million in 2020. Rip up the current deal and replace it with a lucrative four-year contract. Elliott gets his money, and the Cowboys can front-load the cap charges, helping to deal with Cooper and Prescott in the coming years.
Additionally, it provides some insurance against Elliott breaking down in the latter portion of the pact, since it starts now instead of 2021. The Los Angeles Rams made the error of starting Todd Gurley’s extension after his rookie deal (it kicks in next year) and it’s already regrettable.
The Cowboys have grand ambitions this season. To realize them, Jones and Elliott’s representation must find a reasonable common ground.