The Ezekiel Elliott holdout has devolved to a game of chess between player and front office.
After Cowboys owner Jerry Jones went on a posturing tangent, announcing that he expects the Pro Bowl running back to “miss regular season games,” Elliott conveyed through NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport his contract demand: Make him the league’s highest-paid runner.
Rapoport, based on the sources he’s spoken with (likely from Zeke’s camp), claims the team remains hopeful of extending Elliott prior to Week 1, despite Jones’ insistence.
“Jerry Jones says a lot of things,” Rapoport said. “Yes, the Cowboys are preparing as if Ezekiel Elliott will miss games. Meanwhile, they still have been in negotiations with Zeke Elliott’s agent. They still are trying to get a deal done. Really, no significant progress yet. They still have not made an offer that would put him above Todd Gurley as the highest-paid running back, which, of course, is what Ezekiel Elliott wants and deserves, and probably the only thing that will get him to engage.
“But yes, while Jerry Jones says this in front of everyone publicly, behind the scenes, he is still trying to get a deal done. There’s still plenty of time to do it.”
Elliott reportedly rejected an offer that would have made the NFL’s second-highest-paid RB, bumping him ahead of New York’s Le’Veon Bell but stuck behind Gurley ($60 million in total money, $15 million annually), who reset the market last year by inking a four-year pact.
The No. 4 overall pick in 2016, he’s entering the penultimate year of his four-year, $24.956 million pact, which included $24.5 million guaranteed and a $16.35 million signing bonus.
NFL insider Jay Glazer recently predicted the sides will reach an agreement on a deal that appeases Elliott’s financial desire, but that was before Jones boasted about the state of the franchise and how the Cowboys are prepared to do battle sans its leading rusher.
“I’m operating as though right now he’s going to miss regular season games,” Jones said Thursday night following Dallas’ preseason finale, via The Athletic’s Jon Machota. “My entire expectation for what we’re putting together as a team right now would anticipate with him holding out … that he’s going to miss games. I just accept that.”
The Cowboys closed the preseason with 17-15 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in which Elliott’s replacement, rookie Tony Pollard, did not play.
Dallas kicks off the 2019 campaign on Sept. 8 against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium.
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Jones Responds to Marshall Faulk
Jones is too busy running a $5 billion franchise to get bogged down by Marshall Faulk talk. This, essentially, is what the Cowboys’ general manager expressed Friday during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan.
Jones was asked about — and responded to — outsiders who’ve butted into Elliott’s standoff with the organization. Such as the Hall of Fame running back.
“I really have not kept up. I like Marshall. He’s been good for the NFL. But I got too much to do to be thinking about anything these guys are commenting about (Zeke’s) contract,” Jones said, per The Athletic.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL