Ezekiel Elliott will be on the field next Sunday with the title of highest-paid running back in league history.
That’s the (educated, and perhaps sourced) opinion of NFL insider Jay Glazer, who in his latest mailbag for The Athletic predicted Elliott will score a massive contract extension, surpassing Los Angeles Rams superstar Todd Gurley ($57.5 million in total value, $21.95 million guaranteed at signing, $14.37 million annually), ahead of the Cowboys‘ season-opener against the New York Giants on Sept. 8.
“Behind the scenes, Dallas has still contended all along with that they believe he will be there for Week One against the Giants,” Glazer wrote, via ProFootballTalk.com. “I think he will. I think they’ll end up getting a deal done that will make him the highest-paid running back in the NFL. I think he’ll be in there for that first game but you never know what turns negotiations take by the day.”
Glazer’s gut feeling comes on the heels of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones telling increasingly anxious fans at the team’s Kickoff Luncheon Wednesday that Zeke will be in tow for Week 1.
“We’re missing one but we’ll have him on the field,” Jones said, via ESPN’s Todd Archer. “And I’m not joking.”
Jones also wasn’t joking about where the sides stand more than a month into the two-time Pro Bowler’s holdout. He didn’t have “anything to report” on negotiations and strongly affirmed that Dallas is prepared to go on sans Elliott if need be.
“We have to be prepared to play without any given player,” Jones said Wednesday during his weekly appearance on 105.3 The Fan. “We may very well play without a player that’s not coming in on his contract. We’ll play and we’ll play well.”
Those close to the club have predicted that Elliott will return prior to the Giants game, even if that means playing on his rookie contract. He stands to lose $226,000 for each regular season game he misses and Dallas has the authority to chase repayment of up to 25 percent of his $4.087 million signing bonus proration.
The Cowboys, by their own admission, are “open for business” regarding contract-seeking quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper, both entering walk years. But dealing with Elliott, who remains under the Cowboys’ control beyond 2019, is trickier.
Dallas has yet to present a new overture to Elliott after reportedly offering to make him the league’s second-highest-paid RB, ahead of Le’Veon Bell but behind Gurley — a no-go and no-no in No. 21’s view.
“It doesn’t do anybody any good to talk about it at this point,” Stephen Jones said. “We’re just head down, working.”
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Pollard Bumped to (Temporary) RB1 Status
For however long Elliott continues to stay away from The Star, his understudy, rookie Tony Pollard, will operate as the Cowboys’ lead dog. Echoing what his father stated, team vice president Stephen Jones claimed they’re “very comfortable” with Pollard (and veteran Alfred Morris) wearing Zeke’s shoes.
“Yeah, I mean, we’ve been preparing for that,” Jones said of Elliott’s holdout stretching into the regular season, per Pro Football Talk. “That’s why we brought Alfred in. As we’ve said, we’ve been so pleasantly surprised, Pollard has been even better than we expected. We’re very comfortable with what we have there.
“. . .We’re comfortable with that group if that’s what it is. Obviously, we’re still going to be doing everything we can to do something with Zeke.”
Dallas Bracing for Elliott-Less Backfield
The Dallas Cowboys want Ezekiel Elliott. The Dallas Cowboys don’t necessarily need Ezekiel Elliott. This — the massive distinction — is what his head coach, Jason Garrett, implied Tuesday, which was Day 33 of Elliott’s highly-publicized standoff.
“You focus on the guys who are here and the guys who are available,” Garrett said, per Pro Football Talk. “You are confronted with a lot of those situations over the course of the year. Hopefully you have built your team in such a way that you can go with the next guy. We feel good about that next guy. We will have different injuries throughout the year. And we can’t say, ‘Aw, when is he coming back?’ You move on. You put the next guy in there.
“Zeke has been a really good player for us. We love him as a guy. We love him as a player. We want to get him back in here. Right now, we are going with the guys we have. When Zeke gets back here, we will get him integrated as quickly as we can, and he will be a big part of our team.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter @KelbermanNFL