Jerry Jones keeps pushing the flawed “honor your contract” argument

Getty Images

Since running back Ezekiel Elliott isn’t in Dallas, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones can’t try to persuade Elliott to take whatever offer the team is willing to make. So Jones needs to use a different strategy.

His fallback? Make Elliott look bad for holding out.

Jones already has mentioned the “honor your contract” concept in reference to Elliott. During a Friday appearance on 105.3 the Fan in Dallas on Friday, Jones cranked that concept up a notch.

“If we do a new contract, what’s to assure us that this time next year or three months later, we won’t be talking about another contract?” Jones said, via Jon Machota of TheAthletic.com. “If we’re not gonna honor contracts?

That’s a bit disingenous, for several reasons. First and foremost, teams fail to honor contracts all the time. This weekend, plenty of players will have their contracts torn up by teams that constantly choose not to honor contracts when it’s in their interests to do so.

Second, if the Cowboys sign Zeke to a new contract and he shows up now, he’s not going to launch a new holdout during the season. So the Cowboys definitely won’t be back in this position in three months. And if Elliott gets the contract he deserves, he’s not going to hold out again in 2020. Or in 2021. Or, most likely, in 2022.

Third, the “honor your contract” mantra is a red herring. Elliott has two contracts — his deal with the team and his union’s deal with the league. Under the latter, he has the absolute power to withhold services in order to enhance the former, if he’s willing to incur the fines.

If Jones doesn’t like that, he currently has a chance to change it. Jones has taken a central role in the ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. He can, on behalf of the league, try to make it so difficult and/or expensive for players under contract to hold out that they can’t or they won’t.

In 2011, the league bumped up the daily training-camp holdout fines dramatically. In 2019, nothing stops the league from making it far more financially onerous to stay away.

The broader problem is that fans and media will latch onto the “honor your contract” mantra and presume that Elliott is doing something wrong by exercising his right to stay away. He’s not. He’s making a stand, and he has every right to do it.

The fact that it seems to be getting under Jones’ skin means that, despite the bluster, it’s working.

76 responses to “Jerry Jones keeps pushing the flawed “honor your contract” argument

  1. When are the players going to fire their union representatives. If the deal they negotiated is so horrible, why do they always blame the owners? The owners have their reps and the players have their reps. If the owners have it so well, why are the union reps getting off so easy? This is the strangest thing I’ve ever witnessed in sports. Nobody in the media is telling it like it is. What is the big coverup all about? Who are they trying to protect, and why? It’s insane.

  2. Flawed? Do you believe then, that an owner who finds himself in a guaranteed contract with a player who is severely under playing it, can “hold out” and not pay that player because the “market” for that player has changed? You would be crapping frozen twinkies if an owner even threatened that. They BOTH signed the contract and BOTH must live up to it, unless they BOTH agree to re-negotiate it. THAT, Florio is how contract law works.

  3. I heard a smart guy once allege that on average nearly $250,000,000 of contracts are collectively torn up by the teams every year.

    Holdouts are demanding a collective fraction of that.

    The scales are tipped heavily towards teams not honoring contracts if we’re to make comparisons.

  4. “That’s a bit disingenuous, for several reasons. First and foremost, teams fail to honor contracts all the time. This weekend, plenty of players will have their contracts torn up by teams that constantly choose not to honor contracts when it’s in their interests to do so.”

    I am sorry, Florio, but you are being disingenuous.
    Teams absolutely must honor their contracts. If a player is guaranteed a certain amount of money for different things, he gets that whether he puts in a lousy effort or not. Later in the contract the team may terminate the contract, but only within the terms of the contract. These are “option years,” and are part of the contract. The team is not tearing up a contract, but acting in accordance with it.

    Luck just retired, and the team chose not to collect $16.8 million dollars it had to right to recoup. When has a player ever chosen to do the same?

    Name one single instance where a team “choose not to honor contracts.”
    The owner would be sued, and if it is done “constantly” that owner would lose the franchise.

  5. The employee is under NO obligation to play in the NFL. If he CHOOSES to seek employment within the NFL, he is UNDER contract for 2 more years.

    Don’t play, hold out, and hope your value increases on the couch. But it will cost you money the longer you sit on that couch.

  6. Honor your contract? 20th century dinosaur – don’t you realise Zeke has millennials’ rights?

  7. There’s nothing faulty about the argument. He signed a contract. The CBA DOES give Zeke the right to hold out, I’m not arguing that. But if I were Jerry and Zeke stabbed me in the back like that after he went to the mat for him with the league, I wouldn’t give him a new contract either. My bet is that Zeke’s money runs out.

  8. It’s a bit of a stretch to say that teams don’t honor contracts all the time. I know I’m probably one of the stupid fans Florio refers to but, I’m quit sure that written into every contract it says that the team has the right to terminate services if it deems necessary. Generally they also pay all incentives and bonuses when the player is cut. Add to that the fact they they have to carry the cap hit. So, it’s disingenuous to say that contracts are one sided. If a player wants to hold out, fine. As long as he is prepared to pay the penalties. A contract is a contract and the players should live up to it. Try not honoring a contract in private life and see how that works. Unless you’re Donald Trump.

  9. All of that is fine and extremely accurate. If Jerry Jones decides to play EXTREME hardball and not give him what he wants because the analytics don’t support it, (and Dallas possibly even trades him), that’s his right also. “We’re running a business here.” Both are exercising their rights.

  10. They should make all contracts guaranteed for whatever length both parties agree to. Eliminate all these escalating salaries that are non guaranteed and everyone knows will never get paid or renegotiated. Keep it simple and everyone wins…

  11. “The broader problem is that fans and media will latch onto the “honor your contract” mantra and presume that Elliott is doing something wrong by exercising his right to stay away.”

    Yep and anyone that doesn’t believe that’s the sleaziest part of an owner trotting out the “honor your contract” malarkey only has to peruse these comments to educate themselves.

  12. Ole Jerald didn’t care about the 2 years still left on Dez Bryant’s contract when he let him go!

    Is Zek asking for a ridiculous contract in terms of dollars? Who knows?

    Regardless, shame on both parties if they can’t come to a mutual agreement!

  13. I thought Mike Florio was a lawyer. An NFL player’s contract is not a guaranteed contract. It is dependent on the player making the team. That language is written into the contract. Both parties know of that language and agree to it before signing it. The only guarantees are the signing bonus and roster bonus. So by cutting players this weekend, Jones is not not honoring the contracts.

  14. I’m a big Zeke fan, but if you can get 2 #1’s, I wouldn’t hesitate. SF, Seattle, Raiders, Chiefs, Texans…

    But honestly, unions suck. Not needed anymore. There was a time, fine, but with all the information readily available, any “college educated” man can negotiate a contract by himself. Sports agents are ALL slime balls…basically they are all like Michael Avenatti.

  15. Owners don’t honor contracts is rubbish. They only get rid of players when there output doesn’t meet there pay. And that’ means they were making more than they should have. Trust me I am a bucs fan and have seen big money free agents come every year and get 15-30 million in two seasons and not have any impact on the team. And then get sent packing. But there not going to complain they just made 95% over market value for two years. They get released because they have stolen enough of the owners money. He wasn’t crying when he got 18 million signing bonus without ever playing a down. No one ever complains the first two years when they get 30 million up front they complain when it averages back out and they start getting to the back end and only gettin 6-8 million. But conveniently forget about that 30 million they collected the first two years.

  16. Jerry is making his stance and so is Zeke. They both can as part of their rights. That is negotiation.

    What irks me on this site is how commenters constantly say the player is in the wrong because they’re a millennial. It’s lazy commentary and a cop out.

  17. Flawed contract argument?? So, Jerry’s supposed give in to him with 2 years left on his deal?? What’s next, players holding out with 3 years left, then 4 years?? How about the owners “holding out” paychecks because of underachieving players?? I’m sure that wouldn’t go over so well.

  18. I’m no contract attorney, but it seems to me the Cowboys have all the leverage. If he continues to hold out, they don’t pay him, and if he pulls a LeVeon and sits out a year, his contract still isn’t over for another year after that….He’s got no leverage from a business standpoint, and his only hope is that Jerry WANTS to give him more money….Bad plan, Mr Elliot

  19. Teams ALWAYS honor their contracts. To say otherwise is stupid. Teams cut guys without compensation afterward because that is a term in their contract. If you don’t like it, negotiate better terms or larger guarantees or signing bonuses.

  20. So what is the point of signing a new contract when the original contract is not being honored?
    Basically, any contract in the NFL has become meaningless. So, if Zeke wants to not play, Jerry and the other owners should let the players pout.

  21. The owners (billionaires) have a lot more money than the players (millionaires and some not even that.) Many, certainly not all, players live large & spend beyond their means. All the owners have to do is lock them out & watch how quickly the players cave when the money isn’t coming in. That’s why the NFLPA always cautions players well in advance of the CBA expiring to save their money. But they don’t listen and, then when they get desperate for money, they cave to the owners.

    ______________________________________________________________________________________

    When are the players going to fire their union representatives. If the deal they negotiated is so horrible, why do they always blame the owners? The owners have their reps and the players have their reps. If the owners have it so well, why are the union reps getting off so easy? This is the strangest thing I’ve ever witnessed in sports. Nobody in the media is telling it like it is. What is the big coverup all about? Who are they trying to protect, and why? It’s insane.

  22. They need to shorten rookie contracts in the next CBA. Teams are fine with cutting a draft bust and tearing up his contract. I can’t be mad at a guy who has vastly outperformed his rookie deal trying to get paid.

  23. Honor your contract? Jerry can’t be serious! Players get let go all the time before their contract is up. These owners kill me with this crap.

  24. That is patently untrue. If ANY team failed to honor the contract, lawsuits would commence and it would be front-page news here at PFT and everywhere else. Teams terminate contracts with players in accordance with contract terms. In other words, the contract specifically allows them to terminate it. The assertion they are failing to honor contracts is an untruth told in full knowledge it is untrue.

    Players have the latitude afforded them by the CBA to holdout, but there are penalties involved and they are often failing to honor their contract with the team. The CBA gives them permission, if you will, to violate the contract. But they are still violating it and failing to honor it because that contract doesn’t give them any such right.

  25. It’s called negotiation. I think each team should have the ability cut one under performing high salary player with no salary cap consequence. This will help avoid a team from being devastated because some player decided to pack it in after they signed their big contract. It should be called the A-hole clause.

  26. It is only flawed because your opinion says it is flawed. I am not saying that when the cap goes up everyone shouldn’t share the wealth (they technically do) but I am saying on the one hand it’s “get your contract Zeke!”. On the other hand “the QB position is so important have a Kirk Cousins reset the market.” You really don’t get it both ways.

    I think Jerruh is a little flawed in his thinking generally but I do think people should honor their contacts. Ask, but if you do not receive, play the game you were contracted to play.

  27. Not a cowboys fan first and foremost but as I recall Jimmy Johnson signed a 10 year contract in April of 1989 and jerra said it was “a no cut contract” and “a vote of confidence”. Jimmy lived up to his end of the deal by winning superbowls, but jerra could not handle the fact that Jimmy was getting all the glory and said, through the media, that any coach could win. He used the media to belittle the coach and they parted ways. What happened to the “no cut” 10 year contract. Barry won a Superbowl… Yay… Since then.. Nada.. Zilch.. Zero.. Honor your contract…. Karma.

  28. When you are 2-2 , amazing how quickly Jerrah makes it rain. Old adage, stupid is as stupid does. Pay, win, get to post season, hope for best. These are not the RB’s you were looking for…Storm Trooper Jerry shud give his sone the keys to the car, go sit in the Owners Box and drink G & T’s.

  29. Cowboys have stated that their offer on the table is more than Bell but less than Gurley. So 2nd highest paid RB. That seems reasonable.

    What is Zeke’s counteroffer? No one knows. But I bet if it was under $15M a year we would have a deal by now. So Zeke, tell the fans what you are demanding and let’s see who is right and who is wrong.

  30. I’m not a fan of more glory hole Jerrah but he is right and Florio’s argument is a little disingenuous. First, even in releasing a player before a contract is up, the team pays money from signing bonuses (up front before services are rendered) and other guaranteed monies. A player signs a contract knowing exactly how much money they are going to get, no matter if they are cut. They also know a heavy back end loaded contract is probably not going to last and is just fluff and show for an agent to brag about. If they don’t know this then they’re stupid.

    Second, giving into Zeke now would surely guarantee Jerrah is right back here soon…a la Dak, Amari Cooper, or any other player that feels their contract is undervalued. Basically all you have to do is sit out, pout, and threaten not to play, and eventually you’ll be entitled to get your way? C’mon! Where does that end?

    Third, Zeke may have a contract with the cowboys and NFLPA, but the one he’s not honoring is the one with the Cowboys…the one Jerrah is talking about. Zeke signed the contract with the cowboys saying he would provide his services for X amount of money. The same rookie contract the NFLPA agreed to, if I’m not mistaken. I would find it hard to believe the player and NFLPA have language in their contract that says “if ever you feel you want more money than the contract you signed, feel free to not show up”.

    Look at how many players are sitting out now, refusing to work because they want more money. If the owners and GMs start giving in to these demands, it’ll be twice as many next year, and never end. Let them sit out forever, they have no real leverage. They want more money, the team has the money, they’re only going to get the money the team pays them.

  31. The owners have the right to terminate the contract and the players have the right to withhold their services and incur fines. So both parties are right. But if you tell Zeke to honor the contract suppose he gets injured this year and you decide to cut him and not pay the final year. Would Jerry honor the contract and give him the money anyway?

  32. C’mon. You are a lawyer. When players are cut, the teams exercise the clause in the contract to cut them. They are not breaking the contract. They are ending the contract based on the terms of the contract.

  33. Simple solution is to eliminate the franchise tag because that is the biggest reason Zeke is holding out and looking for a new deal. He knows Jerry will continue to run him in the ground and block him from signing a long term deal while in his prime.

  34. Please feel free to explain to me how honoring a contract is wrong, Elliott has no leg to stand on, since HE signed the contract. He wasn’t sold into slavery. If he suddenly starts fumbling, will he return part of his salary? How about if he suddenly gains 2.3 yds per carry? What is the point of a contract if you don’t have to honor it?

  35. Horse feathers! For once I agree with Jerrah. Why on EARTH would you bother to even talk to a player whose word is WORTHLESS? Yank the present offer, and let Zero Zeke sit it out for two years. A contract is a contract.

  36. “Honor your contract” generally works for me. The player knows the rules, and that they can get cut at any time. That’s why the push for as much guaranteed money as possible.

    That being said, I’m willing to cut guys slack on their rookie deals. Because they didn’t “negotiate” those deals. They got their slotted money, and in most cases, guys are out of the league before they get a chance to be an actual free agent. Especially RB’s, who basically have a 4-5 years window to really make money. Just using Elliot as an example, by the time he can REALLY be a FA, and if he gets the same workload, he’s have over 1700 caries, 8000 yards, and 55 TD’s on his body. Team will hesitate to give a long term deal, rightfully, to a RB with those kinds of miles on his legs.

  37. Zeke wants more money or he sits out which is his right but be careful what you wish for. A lot of players can look good behind a good offensive line. If a rookie can step in and Dallas wins … they will be saying “Zeke who”. Oh wait a minute that already happened.

  38. Players and certain writers seem to forget that the players accept signing bonuses that are payment for future services rendered. So what they are getting this year isn’t the whole payment. They were paid millions when they signed the contract. If they are cut, they get to keep it. It’s more than a fair trade off.

  39. Terrible take Florio. 2 years left on his deal and he’s willing to hang our to dry both his team and the owner who’s gone to bat for him in countless knucklehead moments.

  40. If you think you are that great at your job then sign for below market value with guaranteed escalators that take above market value. I know it’s not how thing are have been done in the past, but

  41. Zeke is under team control for at least 4 more years if they tag him twice. I am not sure where he gets off thinking he is owed Todd Gurley money right now. The Cowboys want to overpay him early, but that’s not good enough for him. Look at it like all the young baseball players signing early for big bucks but not Mike Trout money. It’s supposed to be a fair negotiation with both sides compromising.

    This is an easy call for the Cowboys. Save the money he looses until he gets a clue. They are absolutely 100% right on this one.

  42. It’s surprising how many fans here, who are supposed to be the more knowledgeable football fans (one could think) know so little they know about contracts

  43. First and foremost, I believe if you signed a contract, you honor it, period. Any player has the right to ask for a raise. The key word is ask, not hold out. Manangment and/or owneship can either say yes, or no.

    I also believe most contract are flawed. Most contract have a set period of time, and set raises. Personally, I believe every player should be paid a basic decent salary for his position and years of service to that team. Everything else should be an incentive based. You get so much for achieving this, and so much for that. No owner wants to pay for underachieving. Players want more money for achieving something. The only way an owner or management can alter that contract is to cut that player. Beside the cap makes you adjust how much you can pay a any 1 player year to year. Incentive are a way to keep owners from paying for dead weight or declining skills, and players get rewarded who deserve to be. It could also prolong some veterans careers who are no longer capable of starting.

    I also believe long term contracts are bad. Nobody knows the future. A player signs a 7 years high priced contract, get hurt the 2nd year, come backs but can’t contribute like before. What can you do with him? You have multiple years of salary tied up in that player. The way it is now, you have to cut him and which may create hard feelings. Player agents along with ownership and GM’s have created this mess. Shorter contracts and incentive make sense.

  44. Let’s face a prominent issue when it comes to who fans seem to side with. Fans, for the most part, are fans of a team’s results first and players only after that. Most would rather see a team win, than a player on their team have a great day. Most fans do not care how much a player makes. Fans care how many good players are on the team.

    Right now, it is natural for fans to want to get a good player for as cheap as possible. I suspect if there was no cap, fans would side with players more.

    It takes a really special player to get a fan to blame the team for a star not being there. Especially, if they were offered a fairly good amount to play in the first place.

    I am not going to hate a player for trying to get more personally, but as a fan I want as many good players on the team as possible. There is no benefit to a fan if a player makes more money, but with the cap there currently appears to be a benefit to the fan if a player makes less. I do not see the cap going away any time soon. So, I expect that dynamic to be in effect for a while yet.

  45. Seems a lot of people don’t realise. Being cut and holding out both actually have terms in the contract. Neither party who does either is breaking the contract.

  46. The contract doesn’t require that he play football. It on;y requires that , should he choose to play football, it will be for the Cowboys. And for that he will receive specific compensation. It’s still his choice to play or not.

  47. Ridiculous, & a year premature on Zeke’s part. Count me in the “Honor Your Contract” crowd. TWO years left, & holding out..? On a Rookie deal that the league/NFLPA mandated the rules, & pay structure..?

    It’s not like Z was paid under what his league mandated Rookie contract allowed. In fact, Jerry has gone to bat for Zeke while his off field drama has cost him, & his teammates.

    Playing out this year, & THEN requesting an extension in lieu of the 5th year option, would’ve been the respectable thing to do, in my opinion. He’d have gotten it too…. Instead, he’s getting close to the permanent damage part of his holdout.

    The Cowboys want Zeke on their team, & playing football. He’s a great player. However, he’s not gonna win an ego contest with Jerry.

  48. Well……. it’s disingenuous to say teams don’t honor contracts, just sayin’. When they cut a player under contract, the contract they have with the player allows for that.

    I support the players but I get tired of hearing that teams don’t honor contracts.

  49. I have been reading the comments and everyone has good points, but where the honoring the contract is misunderstood is where Zeke was a #4 pick so his contract was already in place there was no negotiating by CBA rules so he had no choice but to sign the contract. That’s why under the rules of the CBA after your 3rd year you can no renegotiate your contract and that’s exactly what he is doing. He has definitely earned a new contract cause he has carried Dallas the past three years.

  50. burk0690 says:
    August 30, 2019 at 8:51 pm
    Ole Jerald didn’t care about the 2 years still left on Dez Bryant’s contract when he let him go!

    ———-
    Jerry paid Dez his guaranteed money…..Jerry did honor the contract as it was written.

  51. As a Cowboys fan, Zeke’s litany of off-field mishaps depicts an immature, entitled, out-of-touch-with-reality superstar. I hope he has to pay his fines. I hope he loses a year toward free agency. And I hope he gets traded for a first-round pick and some change. I don’t love Jerry, but I certainly don’t love Zeke.

  52. I agree with Jerry. Zeke and some of these other high profile guys think they can just demand these massive contracts whenever the feel necessary. I’m sure Jerry’s made him a nice offer or two but Zeke s ego is to big, it’s like these guys care more about having the title of highest paid then the contract itself. Stop being a drama queen and take the millions that are already being offered. I work the 9-5 dreaming like many of how much one million could change my life. Zeke, I’m sure you will be just fine with the millions. Ungrateful egotistical athletes need a piece of humble pie and maybe a flashback to a time in there life when they didn’t have much if anything. On a side note wait till after week 1 to bring Zeke back.

  53. People might be missing Florio’s point about honoring contracts. There’s two parts to the contract: 1) terms of the length/amount and 2) legal rights of players and teams. The hypocrisy he’s talking refers to (2). I’m thinking Florio is talking how Jones is crying foul because Zeke is able to hold-out and therefore in Jones’ mind, not honoring the agreements of (1). Given Jones’ experience as the GM of the Cowboys it’s hard to believe that he isn’t aware of Zeke’s legal right to hold out (as long as he accepts the penalties). Teams can easily go ahead and “rip-up” the contract under (2) and therefore don’t have to honor (1) to the players which is what Jones is blaming Zeke for with this “not honoring the contract” rhetoric. No one is actually talking about any real breaching of contract terms and Jones certainly isn’t framing it in such context either or else we’d be hearing about legal proceedings by now. But he is playing the world’s smallest sentimental violin as a negotiating tactic – it’s just that Florio is calling him out on it.

  54. TO did this Philly with SIX YEARS left on his contract. Suck it up cowboys fans….it’s gonna be a long season. #getchapopcornready

  55. In the back of his mind, Jerry thinks that having Zeke back sometime in November and then for the playoffs isn’t such a bad thing. We’ve seen this scenario with other holdouts. I think it takes 6 games for an accrued season. If Zeke wanted to flip the script, he should report on Tuesday, be on the roster for the first six games of the season instead of the last six, then take his ball and go home in October.

  56. Jerry has learned the hard way from players that he gave huge money that stopped producing as soon as they were super rich.

  57. Elliott has a contract that will end in two years and he can move on some people like myself had to sign non compete clause for 10 years with my contracts.

  58. Next CBA should limit rookie RB contracts to 3 years allowing free agency after that. We all know that RBs careers last about half as long as other positions. Letting teams tie up RBs on rookie contracts for 4 or 5 years(longer if team applies franchise tag) puts the player in a position of trying to negotiate a 2nd contract after they already have a lot of wear and tear. No other position exposes a player to more injuries,etc. Would seem to be a fairer solution.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.