Ezekiel Elliott appears to have drawn a line in the sand. The Cowboys have followed with a line of their own.
A source said the Cowboys are not going to let the star running back’s holdout force their hand. The team is not going to budge on its budget.
The question, then, is: Does Elliott give in, one way or the other?
Elliott didn’t report to training camp Friday with the rest of his teammates. Two days later, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said a rushing champion isn’t necessary to win a Super Bowl.
The Cowboys value Elliott, but the league doesn’t value the position.
“That’s one of the dilemmas at running back is that the league knows that you can win Super Bowls and not have the Emmitt Smith back there or not have Zeke back there,” Jones told CBS DFW. “You’ve got to do all of the things along with having Zeke that allow you to have other players so that you can win the Super Bowl. That’s what we’re going through.”
The Cowboys have Elliott under contract for $3.85 million in 2019 and $9.09 million in 2020 under his fifth-year option. They then could use the franchise tag on him. So, from where the Cowboys stand, what’s the rush?
Elliott, though, has made his contract an issue by holding out, and it has the looks of a long holdout with Elliott now headed to Cabo. The Cowboys prepared for the possibility that Elliott’s absence extends into the regular season by reuniting with veteran Alfred Morris.
The Cowboys have made what they feel is a “solid” offer to Elliott; Elliott obviously disagrees.
But needing to sign Cooper and Prescott now, and with some key defensive players due for new deals in the next couple of years, the Cowboys are not willing to throw their salary cap into the wind.
“That’s my goal is at the end of the day we figure out a contract for Dak, for Amari, for Zeke, that’s fair,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday. “That it’s one they can be satisfied with, but at the same time, they’ve got to understand there’s a real salary cap out there and any money that we save in their situations — and it’s not their job to manage the cap, I agree with that; that’s Jerry’s job, my job, Will [McClay’s] job, that’s our job to do — but any money we save is not going in Jerry’s pocket. It’s going to another football player. It’s a hard cap. It’s reality. We have to deal with it, and at some point, the money we spend on these great players is going to keep us, unfortunately, from signing a couple of guys we’d like to keep.”
Jerry Jones said last week that Smith’s holdout with the Cowboys in 1993 was different than Elliott’s holdout now. What’s the same, though, is the Cowboys aren’t going to budge.
After missing two games, both of which the Cowboys lost, Smith finally agreed to the Cowboys’ deal on the table. The four-year, $13 million contract made him the highest-paid at his position at the time, but it was not as much as he wanted.
Smith won NFL MVP honors with 1,486 rushing yards and nine touchdowns that season, and the Cowboys won the Super Bowl.
All’s well that ends well.
The Cowboys can only hope that the Elliott holdout ends as ceremoniously as Smith’s did, but it’s Elliott’s move.