Ezekiel Elliott has an agent, but he has another unpaid one in Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
Tomlinson is all in on the Cowboys giving Elliott a contract extension.
“Here’s the thing: Zeke has earned a new contract,” Tomlinson, now an NFL Network analyst, said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “People talk about projections and how many more years can he [be productive]. It’s not about that. It’s about what the guy has earned. Zeke has led that team to two division titles in the last three years. He’s led the National Football League in rushing two years already in his short career.
“To be quite honest with you, he’s done it the right way. He hasn’t been in trouble other than that one time. So I think he deserves a new contract, and he deserves to be paid as one of the top players in the National Football League.”
Elliott is entering the final year of his rookie deal with a base salary of $3.9 million, but the Cowboys assuredly will pick up his fifth-year option at more than $10 million for 2020. They also could franchise him in 2021.
But Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram reported last week that Elliott could holdout during training camp if he doesn’t get a new deal this offseason.
Elliott, having led the league in rushing two of his first three seasons, will use Todd Gurley‘s deal with the Rams as a guidepost. Gurley signed a four-year, $60 million deal after his third season, getting a $20 million signing bonus and $45 million in guarantees.
But the Cowboys didn’t want to pay DeMarco Murray what the market bore three years ago, and he left for the Eagles’ five-year, $42 million contract with $21 million guaranteed. The Cowboys’ best offer was four years and $24 million with $12 million fully guaranteed.
The Cowboys, though, also discovered in 2015 that they couldn’t throw any runner into their offense — i.e. Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle — and get the same results. Coach Jason Garrett famously said “the runner matters” after the Cowboys drafted Elliott with the fourth overall pick in 2016.
Elliott, 23, has proved his worth with 5,247 yards from scrimmage and 34 total touchdowns in three seasons, but he also has 1,003 touches.
The Cowboys will have to weigh everything before deciding what they’re willing to pay Elliott and for how long.