Talk about an eleventh-hour change of heart.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday that contract negotiations between the Dallas Cowboys and holdout running back Ezekiel Elliott are “intensifying,” and the sides are hoping to “wrap up a new deal this weekend.”
The Schefter Bomb comes less than 24 hours after his NFL Network counterpart, Ian Rapoport, claimed Dallas was working diligently behind the scenes to lock down Elliott, despite owner Jerry Jones’ public posturing.
Rapoport also reported that the two-time Pro Bowler is seeking to become the league’s highest-paid RB, surpassing Todd Gurley.
“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.”
FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer, too, recently predicted the parties will reach an agreement on a deal that appeases Elliott’s financial desire — before Week 1, to boot — but that was before Jones boasted about 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 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.”
Earlier this month, Elliott reportedly rejected an offer that would have made the NFL’s second-richest back, 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.
Dallas kicks off the 2019 campaign on Sept. 8 against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium.
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Michael Irvin The Catalyst?
Appearing on the Cowboys’ television broadcast on Thursday, prior to the club’s preseason finale, Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin revealed that he personally urged Dallas’ general manager and the team’s vice president, Stephen Jones, to end Elliott’s holdout.
“This is not the time to be milling around,” Irvin said, via CBS11’s Bill Jones. “We need Zeke here right now!”
Cowboys Release Veteran RB
Darius Jackson, who opened training camp with the first-string offense at the beginning of Zeke’s standoff, was released by the Cowboys on Friday as they started trimming their roster to the 53-man limit.
With Elliott in tow, Dallas would boast a three-headed rushing attack, also featuring impressive rookie Tony Pollard and veteran Alfred Morris. Without, Pollard slides into the lead dog role with Morris operating as the between-the-tackles bruiser.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL