Wednesday was a really great day for Ezekiel Elliott, a confirmation of how he assesses himself. The Dallas Cowboys running back was named the team’s offensive most valuable player in 2018 during the team’s kickoff luncheon.
Yea! Perhaps the team can send the trophy to Elliott in Cabo San Lucas.
The saga of Elliott vs the Cowboys continues to drag on, the player and organization stiff-arming each other along the line of scrimmage of contract negotiation. Elliott has proved to be slippery; he wants his deal extended and enriched to the point he can shop at the same stores as Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell.
Of course, the Cowboys are trying to figure out whether their salary cap can handle Elliott’s demands, since quarterback Dak Prescott also wants something like $40 million a year and there are many other mouths still to feed.
There have been whispers Elliott will get what he wants prior to the Cowboys season-opener against the New York Giants, which is just over one week away. And it’s assumed once that happens, there will be no lag time between his signature and first carry.
We know that because Elliott has apparently been busting his butt in the resort town, working up a steady sweat to ensure he’s prepared when his situation is resolved.
Elliott is not down there alone. Hall of Fame back Marshall Faulk is working out with him. And Faulk told ESPN earlier this week his protégé is in peak condition.
“His fitness is great, but playing in games is different,” said Faulk in a text message. “My job is to close that gap with putting him in active game situations. The only thing we can’t simulate is the contact.”
Elliott has won the NFL’s rushing title in two of his three seasons, including the 2018 season. Hall-of-Famer Emmitt Smith is the only other Cowboy to win multiple rushing crowns in their first three seasons. In fact, Elliott and Smith are two of only five players in history to do something like that since the merger in 1970.
ESPN asked Faulk if he believed Elliott would need to sit once he returns while he re-assimilates to the offense.
“The question is,” Faulk said, “are the Cowboys willing to have him miss games because they don’t believe he should be the highest-paid RB?”
The suggestion is the Cowboys will pony up a pact that will pay Elliott somewhere between $13 and $15 million annually. Gurley’s $14.375 million package is the highest for any running back.
Is he worth it? Elliott was the team leader in receptions (77) in 2018 and that set a team record for a running back. His nine TDs also led the team. He gained 2,001 yards from scrimmage in 15 games (he was rested in Week 17).
Elliott is also just the fourth player in league history to amass at least 1,900 yards from scrimmage in two of his first three seasons. Eric Dickerson, Edgerrin James and LaDainian Tomlinson are the others.
Yes, we think he’s probably worth it.
The Cowboys have been playing a rhetorical game, firing off occasional provocations designed to make Elliott at least think he’s not needed as much as he thinks he is.
Earlier in training camp, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones upset the Elliott camp by saying “Zeke Who” after the Cowboys first preseason game.
On Wednesday, Jones took a more measured tone when asked if the team was ready to move on without Elliott – temporarily or permanently. Remember, they were forced to play without him in 2017 when he sat out a six-game league suspension.
“We have to be prepared to play without any given player,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. “We may very well play without a player that’s not coming in on his contract. We’ll play and play well.”
Jones seems prepared to wait out Elliott, as he is with Prescott and receiver Amari Cooper, who also wants a fresh deal. It was Jones son, Stephen, the team’s executive vice president, who told the radio station he believed Dallas would have a deal with Elliott before Sept. 8.
“We’ve got a marathon here,” said Jerry Jones said. “We want Zeke when we get to the playoffs. We want Zeke when we’re in the dog days of this season. … A fresh Zeke, if we got to the end, would be great.”
Should Elliott continue his holdout, the Cowboys will turn to veteran Alfred Morris and rookie Tony Pollard, who has looked exceptional good in camp.
“Were missing one (player), but we’ll have him on the field,” Jerry Jones said at the luncheon. “I’m not joking. If he’s not there early, he’ll be there late. We’ll take any game we can get him.”