The Cowboys are ready for some football. Some football without running back Ezekiel Elliott.
After Thursday’s preseason finale, owner Jerry Jones made it clear that he’s resigned to the fact that Elliott’s holdout will last into the regular season.
“He can’t and won’t miss them all,” Jones said.
Technically, Elliott can miss them all. But if he’s on the roster for fewer than eight regular-season games, he runs the risk of not getting credit for the fourth season of his contract, tolling the deal by a full year and keeping him at two years to free agency as of 2020.
The real question is whether Elliott is angling for free agency or a second contract. If he’s not concerned about becoming eligible for free agency or the franchise tag in 2021 or 2022, he can continue to sit out until the Cowboys give him the deal he wants. And with the Cowboys seemingly certain that he’ll be there for the second half of the season and the playoff run, a holdout that lingers beyond Week Six or so will send a clear message that he’s as unconcerned about getting credit for the contract year as he was earlier this month about getting his fourth year of service toward free agency.
The Cowboys have miscalculated Elliott’s resolve every step of the way. They thought he’d wait until next year to want a new deal. They thought he wouldn’t hold out. Now, they think he’ll show up in time to ensure that 2020 will be the last year of his contract.
At some point, they may need to rethink what they think about Elliott’s plans.