Dallas Cowboys Must Weigh Risk Versus Reward for Ezekiel Elliott’s Contract

Getty Ezekiel Elliott is hungry for a new contract from the Dallas Cowboys.

For Ezekiel Elliott, the question has never been about talent as the Dallas Cowboys scooped up the running back with the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Elliott was as complete of a running back prospect as we have seen in the last decade with the rare combination of power running, pass catching ability and desire to block.

Despite being one of the rare running backs to demand a top-five pick in today’s NFL, it has been what has happened with Elliott off the field that has caused some consternation for the Cowboys. From the domestic violence allegations to the latest incident in Las Vegas, Elliott has consistently made the headlines for all the wrong reasons during the offseason. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that the Cowboys will likely make Elliott the “highest-paid running back in NFL history.”

With a long-term contract looming, should the Cowboys be worried that their running back was once again involved in an altercation that was caught on video? While it was far from an all-out brawl, the sheer quantity of times Elliott has found himself in these situations should be cause for concern. If it is truly once again the “wrong place at the wrong time,” it is time Elliott found better places.

Not only are there questions surrounding Elliott’s behavior, but running backs have the shortest careers of any NFL position. The average NFL running back does not even make it through year three with an average career of 2.57 years, per Live Strong. Running back careers are a little more fragile in the NFL, even at the top as we are seeing with Todd Gurley.

Latest Ezekiel Elliott Incident “Won’t Affect Contract Talk”

All signs point to the Cowboys signing Elliott to a long-term extension sooner rather than later. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Elliott’s latest incident will not impact his future contract with the Cowboys.

“Cowboys RB Zeke Elliott was detained but not arrested in a recent incident that Stephen Jones says won‘t affect contract talks,” Rapoport tweeted.

The Cowboys are moving forward with Elliott as the heart of their offense, and this is not even to say it is a bad move. It is to point out that the level of expectations goes up for a running back who will likely go from making less than $4 million next season to become the highest-paid running back ever to play. Consider these words from Elliott’s own father, Stacy Elliott, during a 2016 ESPN the Magazine interview as his son headed to the NFL.

“My biggest worry is … I don’t believe my son knows how to navigate in life being a superstar,” Stacy Elliott told ESPN. “He’s like a little boy who wants to play football and have fun and enjoy people. We’ve always said this about Ezekiel, ever since he came into the world. He’s just happy to be alive. He’s a happy guy. But this world is not.”

The elder Elliott later claimed his comments were taken out of context, but three years later his concerns have proven to be valid. For the Cowboys to take the next step forward in making a long-awaited return to the Super Bowl, it is going to involve changes off the field as much as what happens on Sundays this fall.

If the Cowboys do indeed feed Elliott with a lucrative new contract, it is time Zeke cuts out the empty calories in his life away from football.

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