Say what you want about Jerry Jones, but the man knows how to market.
Exhibit A: The Dallas Cowboys owner ended his joint press conference with Ezekiel Elliott on Thursday by presenting the newly-minted highest-paid running back with a T-shirt that commemorates his summer-long holdout.
For those who require a refresher, Jones uttered those now-infamous words on Aug. 17 after Dallas defeated the Los Angeles Rams on the legs of rookie RB Tony Pollard, who totaled 42 yards and a touchdown in the 14-10 preseason victory.
After the game, Elliott’s agent, Rocky Arceneaux — speaking for the two-time Pro Bowler — said the comment was interpreted derogatorily.
“I didn’t think it was funny, and neither did Zeke—we actually thought it was disrespectful,” Arceneaux told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
The sides were all smiles Wednesday, however, when Elliott and the Cowboys came to terms on a six-year, $90 million extension that makes him the league’s richest-ever runner.
“We can take this thing to the house with him as the running back,” Jones said, per The Athletic. “We’ve always known that. There’s no doubt that I’ll go to the mat with Zeke. He’s that important to us.”
The shirts will be available to the public for purchase, the team announced, with all proceeds going to the Salvation Army.
“I think it’s pretty funny,” said Elliott, who announced a $100,000 donation to the charity, per The Athletic. “I was thinking about doing the same thing.”
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Zeke’s Status for Sunday
After inking his contract, Elliott participated on a limited basis in Wednesday’s practice. His workload was ramped up Thursday as Dallas hopes he’s fully immersed — and back to football shape — by Sunday’s season-opener against the New York Giants.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett continues to play coy with his plan for Zeke, who could be on a pitch count following a month-long respite in Cabo. Team vice president Stephen Jones also deflected questions about Elliott’s Week 1 snaps, saying only he was impressed by Elliott’s physique, which didn’t suffer due to the standoff.
“He came in in really good shape. Hats off to him,” Jones said, per ESPN’s Todd Archer. “Obviously it was hot outside yesterday so we had a lot of players working through that heat. I think he’s going to be ready to go … Barring something unforeseen, he’s ready to play against the Giants.”
NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported Wednesday that Zeke is expected to see roughly 20-25 snaps against the Giants. Although, reading between the lines, it appears the Cowboys won’t wait long, if it at all, to feed the workhorse.
Breaking Down Elliott’s Deal
The extension, worth a total of $102.9 million, and whose details trickled out, is a win for Elliott in that he got his wish of monetarily eclipsing Todd Gurley. He felt he deserved the historic payday, which includes $50 million in guaranteed money and $37.65 million over the first three years, according to Pro Football Talk. Elliott also received a $7.5 million signing bonus, $28 million fully guaranteed at signing, and will have collected over $50 million by March 2021.
It’s a win for the Cowboys in that they avoiding frontloading his pact, a structure issue that temporarily stalled negotiations. They also built in multiple “outs,” allowing the club flexibility to move on from Elliott after the 2022 campaign, if they so choose.
For all intents and purposes, the eight-year aspect is window-dressing. It’s really a four-year extension that assuages the superstar’s demands while not torpedoing Dallas’ salary cap. It keeps the club competitive in the long term without kicking the proverbial can too far down the road.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL