The Dallas Cowboys have a busy summer ahead with multiple players in need of contract extensions this offseason. However, the one player the team is reportedly not in a hurry to reach a long-term deal with is surprising.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano’s recently published a list of the 50 NFL players who could get contract extensions before training camp and four Cowboys — Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Byron Jones and Amari Cooper — made the list.
However, Graziano notes that Elliott is the most unlikely to garner a new deal this offseason.
“I do not think Elliott gets an extension this offseason, or even next offseason,” Graziano wrote. “As vital a player as he is, the Cowboys don’t feel the same urgency with this deal that they do with (Dak) Prescott, (Amari) Cooper or even cornerback Byron Jones.”
Here are three reasons the Cowboys are holding off on extending Elliott long-term.
Ezekiel Elliott’s Wear and Tear
The Cowboys have not been shy about feeding Zeke a massive amount. Last year, Elliott had a monster workload, with 304 rushes — 43 more than any other player — to go with 77 catches, collecting 2,001 yards from scrimmage.
The Ohio State product has led the league in rushing two of his first three seasons and has put on some major mileage.
The number of touches is something first-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has indicated he wants to taper off a bit, but also understands how important he is to the offense.
“At the end of the day, we want to get him as many touches as we can. At the same time, you got to recognize what a 16-plus game season is,” Moore told reporters. “We’ll see how it progresses (with the other RBs), but if we can get it to Zeke, we’re gonna get it to Zeke.”
It’s no secret that running back is the position that has historically seen the steepest drop off when a running back hits a wall. With their ability to use the franchise tag on Elliott in 2021, the Cowboys could try to get two more solid years out of their back and then reevaluate the deal.
However, there’s always the chance that ends up in a Le’Veon Bell-type situation down the road if Elliott and his side lose patience with the team.
Dallas Cowboys’ Financial Flexibility
As stated previously, the Cowboys have three other players at key positions due contract, along with Elliott. None of those deals will come cheap, and the team already gave defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence the richest deal in franchise history this offseason.
Graziano points out what the Cowboys could eventually do with Zeke, which does include a possible franchise tag.
They’ve picked up the 2020 option on Elliott for $9.099 million, and because running back numbers always stay low relative to other positions, they feel good about their ability to use the franchise tag on him in 2021 if need be.
Ezekiel Elliott’s Off-Field Issues
The last thing the Cowboys want to do is lock up Elliott with a big contract that features a heap of guaranteed money only to see him suspended for an off the field incident. Elliott hasn’t exactly given the team confidence that this is out of the realm of possibilities.
His behavior has led to suspensions, investigations and scrutiny from those around him.
Most notably, Elliott served a six-game suspension in 2017 after a long legal battle against the NFL against allegations of domestic abuse. Elliott was never arrested or charged, but spent time on the sideline. He’s now the focus of a possible NFL investigation stemming from an incident at a music festival in Las Vegas.
The Cowboys have talked to Elliott about being smarter because he’s already under the microscope.
“We’ve talked about it,” Brown said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “He understands, ‘I can’t put myself in those positions. I’ve got to be smarter.’ . . .He already knows that he may have done something that wasn’t right. He’s got to move forward. We all make mistakes.”