When the Cowboys discuss the list of players who merit new contracts, running back Ezekiel Elliott rarely gets mentioned. Which makes it fair to ask whether Elliott is a priority — and whether he could eventually be allowed to leave via free agency, like DeMarco Murray previously did.
Cowboys COO Stephen Jones recently made it clear that the team wants to keep Elliott around.
“Well, I think those are all a work in progress,” Jones said in a #PFTPM interview, via NFL.com. “Certainly we’ve got a couple years there with Zeke to get that done. We certainly want to get him done. He’s the straw, if you will, that stirs our drink. He’s a key part of what we’re about. Those things take time to get done. They don’t happen overnight. Certainly he’s a priority in terms of ultimately getting him signed. There hasn’t really been a timetable put on this.”
The fact that the Cowboys have the fifth-year option as their disposal makes it easier for the team to wait to sign Elliott. But the longer he waits, the more he carries the risk of the kind of injury that will keep him from ever getting paid what he deserves.
The fifth-year option, added to the labor deal in 2011, gives teams the right to squat on a first-round pick for another year, in lieu of signing him to a long-term deal, applying the franchise tag, or watching him walk away in free agency. It’s bad for the player, and it actually makes it better for a player to be taken high in round two instead of being taken low in round one.
For Elliott, the contractual status necessarily makes him less of a priority than he otherwise would be. And it puts the onus on Elliott to make himself more of a priority, perhaps by uttering one of the most memorable (and most NSFW) lines from Goodfellas.