Cowboys may anticipate an Ezekiel Elliott return in October, at the latest

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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones may be trying to position himself for the ability to declare victory, even if running back Ezekiel Elliott‘s holdout lasts into the regular season.

“We’ve got a marathon here,” Jones said earlier this week. “We want Zeke when we get to the playoffs. We want Zeke when we’re in the dog days of the season.”

Whether they sign Elliott to a new contract or not, they’ll likely get Zeke in the “dog days of the season.” Signed through 2020, Elliott risks tolling his contract for a full year if he doesn’t show up in time to get credit for the fourth year of his five-year rookie deal. Under the Joey Galloway arbitration precedent from nearly 20 years ago, a player under contract gets credit for the contract year by playing in eight games.

Given the possibility that the Cowboys will request and receive a roster exemption of up to three weeks when Elliott returns, his best move would be to show up right after Week Six. That way, he’s guaranteed to be available for eight games — from Week 10 (a Sunday night contest vs. the Vikings) through Week 17 — even if the Cowboys use the maximum roster exemption.

The Cowboys understand these rules, and they surely assume that Elliott will show up in time to get credit for 2019, setting himself up for 2020 being the final year of his contract. By talking about the season being a marathon and wanting Zeke for the “dog days” and the playoffs, Jones hints at a regular-season holdout of up to six weeks, a roster exemption to get Zeke into shape, and then having Elliott on the team for the final two months of the regular season.

Of course, it’s possible that Elliott, who didn’t flinch at forfeiting a year of credit toward free agency, won’t care about letting his contract toll for a full year. If his goal isn’t to become a free agent but to get more money from the Cowboys, he could choose to skip the full season, giving up more than $3.5 million but preserving his body.

While that wouldn’t secure the same path to free agency that Le'Veon Bell finagled a year ago, Elliott’s leverage over the Cowboys comes from the withholding of services. And Elliott, who seemingly stunned the Cowboys with his training-camp holdout, could shock them by not showing up at all this season.

For now, they assume he’ll be there, perhaps no later than the days following the sixth Sunday of the season. Unless the two sides begin to make progress soon in their negotiations, it’s time to start looking at Week Six as the potential point of no return.

14 responses to “Cowboys may anticipate an Ezekiel Elliott return in October, at the latest

  1. Let him do it.
    Then when he’s rusty for a few games he will have a good but not great year.
    The Cowboys will pick up his 5th year option, and then he will do what?

    The problems for the Cowboys is they can’t tag 3 players (Dak, Zeke, and Amari Cooper). Daks not that good, I’d not overpay him, I’d let another team pay him $30 million. paying him > $30 million means never doing well.

  2. But this is where Jerry’s point about the agent not having the best interest of his client comes home to roost. If he sits out the whole year and the cowboys move on and Pollard and Alf do a decent Zeke impression and the cowboys play well and proceed through the playoffs Zeke will never play for this team again. The cowboys will realize “hey we don’t need him as much as we thought” and trade him to a turd destination of their choice (Bucs, Colts, Broncos, etc) and then he will have to get that team to give him a ton of money and play behind an inferior OL. That will all but guarantee he a) never gets the money he thinks he is owed and b) shorten his career as those teams won’t show him the same loyalty the cowboys have.

  3. I hope someone in Zeke’s circle uploads a video of Zeke cheering during every Cowboy’s game for a loss. I don’t think he should the money he wants but losses is the only real leverage he has in his corner.

  4. If Jerry thinks that the Cowboys are almost as good without Zeke, then why did he draft him #4 overall? The Cowboys have no chance of winning the division if Zeke plays only 8 games. This year is the best opportunity for them to win a superbowl and Jerry is throwing it away.

  5. Is in the OL who makes the RB, or the RB who makes the OL?

    It’s probably a combination of both. The OL and the RB make the Cowboys go. If I had to chose one over the other, I’m choosing the OL. It’s harder to find a great OL than a great/good RB. A team can find a good running back easier than 5 good linemen and a blocking TE.

    It’s appears the Cowboy are about to find out!

  6. Let him sit. When he feels it in his wallet he’ll come crawling back. Maybe by that time Pollard will prove himself and Zeke can get himself traded to Oakland – the land of the misfits.

  7. Doesn’t matter if Zeke shows up or not. Cowboys has no chance to win super bowl with JG coaching.

  8. “Of course, it’s possible that Elliott, who didn’t flinch at forfeiting a year of credit toward free agency, won’t care about letting his contract toll for a full year. If his goal isn’t to become a free agent but to get more money from the Cowboys, he could choose to skip the full season, giving up more than $3.5 million but preserving his body.”

    And still under contract since they year wouldn’t count, so he’d still have 2 years left.

    Let him continue to sit out. Cowboys won’t ever release him and he’ll just go away.

  9. I don’t think, based on the arbitrator’s written opinion that Elliot needs to be back by week 6, I think he needs to be back by week 9 in order to be available for the final 8 games. The arbitrator wrote the following:

    “Th[e] consistent, long standing past practice of the parties compels the conclusion that players under contract who voluntarily hold out for less than a football season, or players under contract involuntarily suspended for less than a football season, may not have their contracts extended under Paragraph 16,”

    In the case of Galloway the duration of the holdout was 8 games/weeks, but the Arbitrator left the door open for a potential 15 games hold out and ABSOLUTELY addressed the duration of the holdout, not the team’s utilization of the player. If Elliot makes himself available for the final 8 games he has met the already established Galloway standard, if the team then determines it doesn’t want to utilize him during his availability, requests a roster exemption that is granted for 3 weeks, well that would seem to be by choice not using the player during the period that he is available to the team.

    The arbitrator’s wording would certainly be scrutinized in any future arbitration between a holdout player and a team . . . it seems purposeful that he selected language to address the players holdout not the team’s utilization and he left a wide open door to step through for a longer holdout, in theory making oneself available for only the final game would toll the contract year.

  10. This is Jerry’s way of saying “take it or leave it…..see you when you have to be here”. I’m not saying I agree with him, because I’m not an expert like all of the other people that comment……but that’s what it sounds like to me at least.

  11. Zeke’s leverage is the Cowboys fear of playing without him. If he sits the whole season, he gains nothing. Assuming the Cowboys have offered him a deal around 13 million AAV. He is foolish to keep holding out. He returns without new deal he makes only 3.5 million this year and 9 next so he’s out 10.5 million with nothing to show. In addition, he’s already earned over 1 million and nearly approaching 2 million in fines. If he doesn’t play at all this year, Jerry can hold the line on him and never let him hit FA unless he plays under his current deal. Also, has he saved up enough money to weather not getting game checks? I think Zeke is getting some really bad advice from his agent.

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