The Cowboys would like to have Ezekiel Elliott on the field in 2019, but Jerry Jones is making it clear that his franchise doesn’t need him.
Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout is dominating the headlines around Cowboys training camp. Most NFL pundits agree that Dallas needs him to become a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2019. Evidently, team ownership disagrees.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones recently went on the record with his belief that rookie Tony Pollard is capable of “carrying the whole load” at the running back position. He didn’t mention Elliott by name when talking about Pollard, but the subtext of his comments was crystal clear. The Cowboys want Elliott to feel like they believe their roster is capable of success without him.
Jones’ words might have carried more weight if Pollard had done something approximating stardom during the team’s preseason opener against the 49ers. The former University of Memphis star only managed to rush for 16 yards on four carries. He didn’t do anything to diminish his coaching staff’s optimism about his talent, but he certainly didn’t cause anyone to forget about Elliott in his professional debut.
The most likely explanation for Jones’ decision to go on the record with his praise for Pollard is that it’s part of his very intentional negotiating plan with Elliott. Jones may not be the most savvy football personnel guy on the planet, but he’s certainly aware of Elliott’s ability to take his offense from good to great. With all due respect to Dak Prescott and company, Elliott is the guy who really keeps opposing defensive coordinators up at night.
If the Cowboys do want to make 2019 a special season, they need for Elliott to be happy, healthy and motivated. Part of that process will require the team to find a way to satisfy his contract demands. That will be a difficult challenge for the Cowboys front office to solve. Elliott wants to become the highest-paid running back in the NFL. Dallas officials don’t want to make the same contractual mistake with their franchise back that the Rams made with Todd Gurley.
It will be very interesting to see if Elliott and his representatives make any sort of public response in the coming days. They’re unlikely to receive Jones’ shot across the bow with any sort of positivity. Instead, it’s safe to assume they’ll scoff at the idea that Pollard can take over for the All-Pro in Kellen Moore’s offense.
There are a lot of twists and turns left in the battle between Elliott and the Cowboys over his contract. Jones’ recent comments are only his first response to his player’s choice to hold out. Expect a lot more fireworks before this situations gets resolved.