Jerry Jones plays the “Zeke’s under contract” card

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It’s popular in some circles when a player under contract holds out to simply complain that the player should honor his contract. The Cowboys, with all other strategies to date unsuccessful, seem to be moving in that direction with running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is signed through 2020.

“I’m optimistic that we can get Zeke’s deal done,” owner Jerry Jones said after Saturday night’s preseason game. “I don’t know that. I don’t know that. But sure, I don’t mean to be trite, but the whole premise is based on getting everybody under contract playing, so that’s what we’re trying to do here. Zeke’s under contract.”

Yes, Zeke’s under contract. Which is a careful, let’s-not-piss-Zeke-off-for-a-second-straight-Saturday way of saying that he should honor the contract.

But here’s the point that always gets overlooked when someone says a player under contract should honor that contract: He has rights and responsibilities under two different contracts. And everything in his personal contract with the team is subject to the broader contract between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

That contract gives Elliott, and every other player under contract in the league, the absolute right to not show up for training camp, with the downside being potential daily fines in the amount of $40,000. If a player is willing to risk owing those amounts for staying away (in most cases, the team doesn’t insist on payment), then the player can launch what essentially amounts to a one-man wildcat strike.

And if the NFL wanted the rights of the teams to be stronger in this regard, it could beef up those terms at the bargaining table. Ultimately, the NFL could create a system that makes it impossible for the player to hold out at all.

Of course, the NFL would have to persuade the NFLPA to agree to that change. And why would the NFLPA do that? Under the current rules, the player “under contract” can apply pressure by withholding services. It’s a powerful weapon for any and every player, even though it typically only works for the best ones.

Zeke is one of the best ones. And, yes, Zeke’s under contract. But he’s fully within his rights to refuse to work until he gets a contract better than the one he had no choice but to accept when drafted, since the terms are predetermined based on draft slot and, for the fifth-year option, position played. He’s now eligible for a different contract, and he’s able under the CBA to stay away in an effort to get one.

Try as some might to make Zeke or any other player “under contract” look bad for exercising the right to hold out, the CBA grants that right, clearly and unequivocally.

49 responses to “Jerry Jones plays the “Zeke’s under contract” card

  1. Let’s face it zeke is a running back with a short shelf life. The cowboys have been riding the wheels off him. Most touches every year he has played. The day he didnt preform the cowboys would cut him, contract or not. He covers up Daks weaknesses week in and week out. The cowboys amhave been nothing but zeke for the last 3years. He should try and get paid well he still can. He isn’t going to play much past 30. I dont like zeke even as a Ohio state fan but he should get paid. They will get a better deal out of Dak when you watch him struggle to move the ball with out the threat of zeke. Daks not worth anything over 20 mil , zeke has been worth everycent he has preyed out of Jerry’s cold hands.

  2. He IS under contract, no doubt. But the popular opinion in those certain circles conveniently ignore how teams don’t honor contracts likewise.

    Funny how that is.

  3. No one really cares. Millionaire whining over more millions. Hes got the best oline in the nfl in front of him, other will be successful also. Hes not 15m per year good, but hes well within his right to hold out. Just like the team is well within thier rights not to overpay him. Let’s see if he forfeits game checks. He can cry all he wants but hes under contract for at least 2 more seasons.

  4. Who does Jerrah think he is telling an employee to show up for work! Zeke has rights! Er…

  5. I don’t think most people would be that upset if his demands weren’t unreasonable. It’s just like Bell. He wants more money than any team is willing or should be willing to pay. When players are made reasonable offers and reject them and then holdout, why shouldn’t fans be on ownerships side? Also, this isn’t some owner that doesn’t want to win and will pocket the extra cash. You might disagree with things he does, but Jones is definitely trying his hardest to win.

  6. More than the fact he’s simply “under contract” is the fact that the WHOLE team showed up! Injured players, teammates who don’t have contracts after this season, etc.. Nevermind the pundits have made us to be SB favorites! It’s a selfish move by a selfish young man. We’ve seen his true colors-speeding, night club & concert problems ( in his latest event he’s seen on video publicly intoxicated. Enough Zeke- show up, shield out & all is forgiven. I’ll bet Jerry takes care of you then.

  7. To me signing a contract is BOTH parties word that they will abide by terms. Guess that doesn’t mean much to Mr. Elliot.

  8. What has seek done to warrant more money? Sure, he has big numbers and made some big plays, but he’s done that behind the best OL in the league! He hasn’t led them to a Super Bowl. He is great, maybe the best at the moment, but see what happens when he finds lol that money in Washington and never gets past 1100 yards a season. He’s expendable as long as the OL is strong. Any 4th rounder will be able to produce enough to win.

  9. Jerry is starting to get a tad nervious….opening day is right around the corner and his MAIN cog to make the WHOLE offense to work is missing in action. Jerry sees his window of life closing and desperately wants to get to the Super Bowl again…Elliot just might win this one.

  10. Player out performs his contract well that’s great for the team right , or when a player doesn’t live up to his contract he can be cut well that’s also great for the team …
    Ummmm is that how it works … I’m confused.

  11. Yes he has a right to hold out. Unfortunately the CBA in it’s current state is a bad deal for running backs. That is not Jerry’s fault. That said, Zeke does deserve more money. It does seem, however, that the Cowboy’s have made a better than reasonable offer.

    I say that with the understanding that Jerry spent who knows how much fighting his suspension. Since being drafted Zeke has “maybe” been in a bar fight and broke someone’s jaw. I say maybe because the victim refused to say who did it. He has been in a questionable car accident. Just this winter we had the elbow and the flop. Maybe the security guard was over the top, but for Zeke it WAS evidence of bad judgement and immaturity.

    Despite that he holds out with TWO years left on his contract..and snubs his nose at a deal making him the second highest paid at his position.

    As fans in Dallas, we have every right to be upset at him. We have stood by him, the team has also. His reputation is taking a beating. I believe he is recieving bad advice.

  12. When a team cuts a player during the 3rd year of a 5 year contract, the team is honoring the contract. The contract is written as such. That’s why PFT examines the guaranteed money in all these deals, and uses phrases like “the team could walk away after x years.”

    Zeke, meanwhile, is under contract with the Cowboys. Just because the league contract sets out a procedure and rules for how a player can not honor the contract with the team does not mean Zeke is not under contract.

  13. he is under contract for TWO MORE YEARS. I’d like to see the day Zeke sits out and gets nothing over a two year period. it won’t happen. when you’re a first round pick, it’s a 4 year deal, with 5th year option. that’s the rules. you can ask for more money after year 3, but you won’t get it because you’re under contract for two more years anyways (the cowboys picked up the 5th year option). the team has zero obligation to sign Zeke longterm for a year. if you don’t like it, then don’t try to be a first round pick, especially a top first round pick that gets a huge contract right off the bat. Dak and Amari are the prioroties, as they have to sign one long term and maybe they’ll just franchise the other one.

    oh, and he is an idiot that can’t stay out of trouble. if i’m jerry, i trade this guy now while he still has full value.

  14. “He IS under contract, no doubt. But the popular opinion in those certain circles conveniently ignore how teams don’t honor contracts likewise.”

    Teams *are* honoring the contract when they cut players for cost, performance, or no reason at all. They are allowed to do that – by the contract – and everyone involved knows it. Fans view this situation (rightly or wrongly) as Zeke not honoring his contract because he is wanting to *change* his contract in midstream.

    Maybe he’ll stay away out on principle, lose a year’s pay, get cut, and then sign a new contract for less than what the Cowboys wanted to pay him, like that genius Le’veon Bell.

  15. When you take into account that the highest paid back in the league is Gurley, and the fact that Zeke has outperformed him, it isn’t unrealistic for Zeke to want to be paid more than him. Zeke was the league rushing champion in both if his full seasons, and if not for the BS suspension he had a legit shot for three straight rushing titles to start his career. Zeke’s not what’s wrong here, the market is.

  16. JJ paid millions in legal fees over Zeke’s behavior and Zeke seems to just not care about that at all.

    Outside of Cowboys fans and FF guys, the league as a whole and NFL fans as a whole simply wont miss him on the field. He’s a good RB but he’s not sit up and notice good like Barry Sanders was. He’s not ‘must see TV’ when he has the ball.

    He vastly overrated his value to the team and NFL as a whole…

  17. Zeke is a “no show” so start adding up the $40K a day. Zeke wants MORE, but his contract has two more years to run . . . . AND that is what the NFLPA agreed to last time around.

  18. Zeke is not in a position of power here Dallas should keep fining him and if he refuses to report then take the offer off the table and tell him show up or stay in Mexico.. punk

  19. Puh-leez,
    Yep, Zeke has the right to hold out. Jerry also has the right to remind him that when he cashed the signing bonus check, he was agreeing to the terms of the contract. So Jerry’s not “playing a card”. I personally believe Jerry should be grateful that he’s showed him his character BEFORE getting a market-resetting contract. Jerry should pick a non-division team with a terrible O-line, and no passing attack and trade him.
    I’m sick of hearing “he’s outperformed his contract”. In point of fact, he was drafted in the top 5, and given a 24.9 MILLION dollar contract (with a 16 MILLION) signing bonus. I’d say he’s almost fulfilled his contract. That contract was the Cowboys betting on Zeke in spite of his issues off the field.

  20. Teams don’t honor contracts either so you can’t have it both ways Jerry.

    The bigger issue is Zeke really doesn’t have any leverage. If he doesn’t report by week 10 his year doesn’t count and he would still have 2 years on his rookie deal.

  21. Since we’ve started looking at these things under broad contractual philosophy the last few years with no expectation that the player honor the contract let’s go a step further.
    The contract is an NFL contract. To date, outside of CFL and the fledgling XFL there is no other marketplace for these players. If you really want to play hardball, where are you taking your services? It’s NFL or bust and considering most of these guys have zero career prospects outside of playing football, let alone lucrative career prospects, there really is no marketplace.
    For this reason the owners will always win. Eventually it comes down to do you want to play a kids game for millions of dollars or do nothing. Most aren’t doing nothing.

  22. Zeke does not have a very good hand. Training camp means next to nothing for individual players who will unquestionably make the 53 man roster, so holding out of training camp does little more than signal discontent with his current contract in a very expensive way.

    Holding out during the beginning of the season will result in him loosing game checks, and might result in a team originated suspension. Holding out the entire year will toll his contract, and will put him in a worse situation than what he is in now because he would be one year removed from playing football, and all things equal, his services will be worth less.

    As long as the Cowboys are comfortable playing someone else in Zekes position, his choices are to play out his contract, or retire.

  23. How come I never see anyone bring it up when a player gets cut? None of you cry, he was under contract. Stop worrying about a billionaires money. Jerry is making enough to sign 53 guys . He is making all that meanwhile it’s the players who out their bodys on the line. Not old man Jerry. You guys think athletes are over paid , it’s the owners who are over paid. So when cut day comes this year I want to see you all complain when hundreads of guys under contract get cut. This isn’t baseball or basketball, these guys take serious injury risk , and just get cut. Stop the billionaire worship. Anyone with that much money got it off the backs of working people and most likely started with a bunch of daddy’s money to begin with

  24. How much money does he make? How much does he need? For the rest of his life? Is there anyone on this board who wouldn’t take that contract for 1 year and be set for life? There is a cap. You are getting millions. There are others to pay. Grow up. And show up. And play for what you signed for. You are richer than any of us anyway.

  25. It’s not seek or dak, or cooper that will hold this team back. It will be Garrett AGAIN. 3 pro bowl OL, PB wide receiver, PB running back, PB QB, PB DLINEMAN,PB LINE BACKER,PB CORNER and he still can’t win. Nothing is going to happen with this team with him as coach. Other do a hell of a lot more with a hell of a lot less

  26. Jones was very clear in what he said that it is their job to get every player under contract and in camp. He then stated that Zeke was under contract . . .

    That would imply he is acknowledging that they still have part of their job to do, as he is under contract . . . but not in camp. So there is work to still do.

    I don’t think Jones is stating anything but a fact . . . if Zeke came out and stated that he believes he has earned the right to be the highest paid RB in the league (some would argue yes and some would argue no) and his only recourse at this point is to hold out per the collective bargaining agreement in order to obtain that contract.

    The other reason Zeke has used this season to make this stand is that he is only due about $250K per game this year, whereas next season every game check is almost three times that. So I could see Zeke staying out as long as he can without the contract not tolling his 4th year, come back and play all of 2020/2021 under the 5th year option and then earn his way to Free Agency. If he had waited to make this stand in year 5 it would have financially hurt much more.

  27. Nobody would even blink an eye if he did this next year. With 2 years left, it would set a horrible precedent for the rest of the league.

  28. “precedent”

    Lol. This is exactly what Aaron Donald did last year.
    It’s actually allowed under the rules of the current CBA.

  29. @bakerthetdmaker “Jerry is making enough to sign 53 guys”

    Maybe you’re new to this, so let me help: Every NFL team is “making enough to sign 53 guys”. They have this thing called a salary cap. It’s the same for every team. They divide up a fixed amount of money among those 53 players. If you give too much of it to one player, you can’t pay other players, and your team is less good.

    So it doesn’t matter how much money “Jerry” has – the team has x dollars to split between the players, just like every other team in the league.

  30. What’s the purpose of a contract if a player has the right to say he won’t honor it? Why even have a contract? Every player and team should be on a year to year contract. If the players a dud or underperforms, he’s gone the next year or you sign him for less. It should be a 2 way street between the team and players. It should never be a one sided deal. If you have a contract, both sides need to honor it.

    I’m in favor of a contract, maybe 1-5 years, with less guaranteed salary with more incentives for achieving team goals.

  31. I’m a die hard Cowboy fan and been one since the age of 3. Zeke is making same mistake Bell did. Jerry lost Zeke when he drafted him…..because Zeke isnt the man we hoped he would become. Hold out? I understand its his right. Its his right bc he had a very good offensive line and Cowboys put him in a good situation. He coulda went to Tennessee Titans. Henry was just as good as Elliott and I sure would like to have seen what Henry would have done behind this Oline. Now bc of the way Elliott has snubbed the big reboot contract he was offered, Id go after Henry.,..I dont know about Pollard and Morris RB by committee. No way. Henry is my choice. Trade Zeke to AFC and get a draft pick or three.

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