Was Ezekiel Elliott rewarded for holding out; Is it right?
The Dallas Cowboys season starts in four days. Running back Ezekiel Elliott just signed an extension after a lengthy holdout. Was he right for doing so?
Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys‘ star running back, held out this summer missing all of training camp and the entire preseason in pursuit of a new contract extension. That’s despite having two-years left on his current deal in Dallas.
When Elliott’s holdout threatened to spill into the regular season, he was suddenly rewarded with a new six-year, $90 million contract extension on Wednesday, that according to NFL Networks’ Ian Rapoport. But was Zeke right for holding out in the first place? I believe the answer is yes.
What Did Elliott Want?
Elliott wanted to be the highest-paid running back in the NFL. Previously, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley was the highest-paid runner earning $14.375 million per year. Gurley’s four-year, $57.5 million contract had $45 million in guaranteed money.
Why Did it Take Long for Elliott Get it?
The Cowboys are in a tough situation with other big-name players also needing contracts. The likes of quarterback Dak Prescott, receiver Amari Cooper and cornerback Byron Jones are all looking to cash in alongside Elliott.
The Cowboys were projected to have $67.2 million in salary cap space next season according to Over The Cap. The question became, how does Cowboys owner and general manger Jerry Jones sign three-star players and a quarterback?
Jerry Jones and the Value of Running Backs
Jones is not someone who is known for throwing money around (although he very well can if he wants to). He is sure to invest his money in something that he values very much, and believes is important to the team.
Running backs are paid amongst the lowest in the league (Ezekiel Elliott is 55th in the league in average salary despite being the top paid running back). This is mainly because the NFL is a passing league. The value of a running back to the overall team is not as much as some people may believe.
In an interview with CBS 11 Sports, Jerry Jones was asked if Elliott has the same role to the current Cowboys that Emmitt Smith had on the Super Bowl-winning teams.
"“Well of course Emmit had participated in a Super Bowl being the first rushing champ … The point there is you don’t have to have a rushing champion to win a Super Bowl … Consequently, when we are looking and putting Zeke’s contract in place, we gotta realize that the ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl; and so you gotta do all of the things along with having Zeke that allow you to have other players, so that you can win the Super Bowl.”"
After a preseason game against the New York Giants in Week 2, Dallas rookie running back Tony Pollard enjoyed a nice game. After the game, Jerry was asked about Elliott and made his viral “Zeke who?” comment.
The quotes were obviously Jones calling out Zeke because of the holdout. They also show his actual view of running backs. This may have complicated things more between the two parties. No name running backs have been emerging and showing that you don’t need to be a star to get the job done well.
A great showing of this is when James Connor took over for Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers during his holdout. Another was when Phillip Lindsay came out of nowhere and exploded for the Denver Broncos. How about when C.J. Anderson showed off for the Rams in the playoffs? These situations take away from the stardom of Elliott.
Running backs do not always last long in the NFL, especially if they are being used as much as Zeke is. The prime of his career may well be now and through the next three years. The wear and tear that running backs suffer from are the worst in the league. Elliott knows this very well and wants his money now before he falls off.
I don’t blame Elliott for holding out. All it takes is one unfortunate injury and his career is done. Zeke is aware of the discussions around him being the best in the league and because of that, he should be paid as such. Anything less would have been an insult.
This upcoming season and then a fifth-year option was left on the rushing leader’s contract. With Alfred Morris back on the team now and Tony Pollard rushing well in the preseason, the pressure was on Ezekiel Elliott.
It was an unfortunate situation for Zeke, but between the Cowboys’ cap crunch and the value of star running backs in the league, making a Todd Gurley-like splash was not going to happen. Anything more than a slight raise from would have been a surprise to me.
In the end, was Ezekiel Elliott right for holding out? Yes, I believe he was. He did what he had to do in order to protect himself and secure his financial future. But do you agree? Let me know your thoughts on the subject in the comment section below.