There’s a chance the Dallas Cowboys might very well try to run Ezekiel Elliott into the ground.
Since he entered the league as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Elliott has been the unquestioned centerpiece of the Cowboys’ offense.
With a workhorse mentality and explosive skillset, Elliott has been the league rushing champ in two of his first three years. He burst onto the scene by going for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns as a rookie, and did it again last year with 1,434 yards and six touchdowns.
But in that time, he’s also been among the league leaders in touches, which has undoubtedly taken a toll on his body.
Zeke’s 381 touches in 2018 were a career and league-high, and he has topped 1,000 career touches through his first three seasons, despite missing six games in 2017 due to a suspension.
No matter how many times he gets up and does his “feed me” celebration, that kind of workload will eventually take its toll.
First-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has stated that he wants lower that number to keep Elliott fresh for later in the season, 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.”
Ezekiel Elliott Extension Not a Priority for Cowboys
Elliott is among the large group of stars in Dallas looking for extensions, but ESPN’s Dan Graziano recently reported in his list of the 50 NFL players who could get contract extensions that Elliott is the most unlikely of the group to garner a new deal this offseason.
Quarterback Dak Prescott, corner Byron Jones and wide receiver Amari Cooper — all Pro Bowlers a year ago — are among the others seeking deals to stay in Dallas long term.
“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.”
Graziano points out that the team has already picked up Elliott’s fifth-year option, keeping him in a Cowboys’ uniform at least until 2020 for a modest $9.099 million. He also noted that the team “feels good” about their ability to use the franchise tag on Zeke in 2021 if a long-term solution isn’t reached by then.
They have sensible cost control over Elliott for at least three years. At his current pace, three years equates to about 1,000 touches. Would you be in a hurry to extend a running back — one of the most physically vulnerable positions in the league — if you knew you had another 1,000 touches coming at a reasonable price?
If Elliott reads the writing on the wall, could he and his agent decide sooner than later that an effective solution would be to sit out for a season like Le’Veon Bell did in hopes of big, guaranteed money down the road?
Bell has said he “doesn’t regret” missing last season with the Steelers, having signed a four-year deal worth $52.5 million with $25 million guaranteed with the Jets this offseason.
“It’s the best my body’s really ever felt in my life,” Bell told NFL.com. “There’s nothing that even comes close to comparing how I feel. Literally just resting and letting my body heal. … My body got so much rest, I’ve got so much built up in me, it’s time to let go. This is the best I’ve literally ever felt in my life — that I can remember.”
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