Ezekiel Elliott is physically ready for the 2019 season, even if he’s not yet financially ready. According to a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Cowboys running back currently weighs “in the low 220, the lowest it has been since his rookie year.”
He adds that “If and when the two sides can work out a deal, Elliott will be all ready to go.” Outside of Elliott’s playing shape, this is an optimistic take on the elongated contract holdout and when the star back will return.
On Wednesday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that there’s “not really” been any significant progress on a new deal. However, the 76-year-old confirmed Schefter’s report by saying that he knows Elliott can return to the field immediately in playing shape.
“Zeke has the ability to just completely hit the ground running, if I may use that,” Jones said to NBC Sports. “He has that, and we expect that. He says it, and I believe him, that he’s in great shape. So I don’t think that’ll be an issue when he does come back.”
The rub in the negotiations comes with how both sides value running backs in general. Elliott wants to be compensated in the range of Rams back Todd Gurley ($14.375 million/year), whole Dallas is willing to pay more in the range of Jets back Le’Veon Bell ($13.125 million/year).
Elliott is set to make just under $4 million this season, as well as over $9 million for 2020.
Jones has reiterated that he’s ready for a “marathon” in terms of negotiations, as he doesn’t feel he needs an NFL rushing leader in the mold of Elliott to win the Super Bowl.
“Of course, Emmitt had participated in a Super Bowl, being the first rushing champ — this is very important — first time ever a rushing champion was on a Super Bowl-winning team,” Jones told KTVT-TV in Dallas a few weeks ago. “The point there is, you don’t have to have a rushing champion to win a Super Bowl.”
Rookie Back Tony Pollard Steps Into Starting Role for Now
For at least one preseason game, the Dallas Cowboys moved forward without Ezekiel Elliott as the starting running back. Rookie Tony Pollard took his place on the first drive, toting the ball four times and gaining 16 yards.
The 6-foot-, 215-pounder out of Memphis has drawn rave reviews throughout training camp from both management and his teammates.
“Tony Pollard has done a real nice job out there,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said, per David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. “He’s getting a little bit of everything. He’s probably one that has stuck out for me if I were going to pick one.”
He didn’t record a run longer than six yards, but he helped drive Dallas to an opening field goal in the first quarter. In the second quarter, he gave way to fellow rookie Mike Weber, as well as Darius Jackson. This indicates how highly regarded Pollard is to the Cowboys organization.
As Ben Grimaldi of Cowboys Wire points out, though, Pollard may not be ready for a heavy load. He wasn’t even the starter last year as a senior at Memphis, instead backing up All-American Darrell Henderson.
In college, Pollard had a career high of 78 carries in his senior year. That equates to just under six carries a game, whereas Elliott averaged over 20 totes a game last season and almost 22 per game for his career. If we include receptions, Pollard still only had 243 touches in his three years at Memphis, while Elliott had 304 carries alone in 2018, and a total of 381 touches on the year.
Jones seems to be okay with this development, as he said he’s okay with Pollard carrying the “whole load.” This may just be a public negotiation tactic with Elliott, as Jones did say “when” in reference to his star back’s return.
With the infusion of receiving talent over the last year in Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Randall Cobb and the unretirement of Jason Witten, it does seem that Jones is okay with a low-usage back in the offense.
He may just trust Dak Prescott to get the job done in the now pass-happy NFL.