“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.”
Jones is leveraging Elliott against the potential penalties for his absence. Dallas can enforce a $40,000 fine for each day the Pro Bowl running back has missed — 35 and counting. Additionally, the team has the authority to chase repayment of up to 25 percent of his $4.087 million signing bonus proration, as part of his rookie deal.
Should Elliott opt to sit out regular season action, he could owe $226,000 for each game he skips. He also risks his contract tolling and not receiving credit for his fourth NFL season, delaying his future foray into free agency.
The No. 4 overall pick in 2016, Elliott is 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.
“We need Zeke. We’re a better team with Zeke. But we need to be able to win when we need to without players because of injuries, suspension, or in this case, holdout. But as I’ve said, this is a marathon,” Jones said.
Jones has vacillated between optimism and realism regarding Elliott’s quest to become the NFL’s highest-paid RB, balancing hope of resolving the standoff before Week 1 with the need to prepare for the worst.
“We want him sooner rather than later, but we’ll take him later,” he said Thursday on the Cowboys’ television broadcast.
Tony Pollard, a rookie fourth-round draft pick, has been elevated to starter in Elliott’s absence. He did not play in the exhibition-capper against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a 17-15 loss.
Dallas kicks off the 2019 campaign on Sept. 8 against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium.
“He can’t and won’t miss them all,” Jones added.
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Irvin Urges JJ to Get Deal Done
Appearing on the Cowboys’ television broadcast, 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!”
NFL Insider Confident Said Deal Gets Done
For what it’s worth, FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer predicted the sides will reach an agreement on an extension that makes Elliott the league’s richest-ever back, eclipsing the $57.5 million in total money Los Angeles superstar Todd Gurley received on his four-year contract.
More importantly, as far as the Cowboys are concerned, Glazer believes the sides will reach an agreement sometime in the next 10 days, ensuring Elliott is on the field versus New York.
“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.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter @KelbermanNFL