Ezekiel Elliott officially touched down in Dallas on Tuesday as his representatives put the finishing touches on an extension that should make the Pro Bowler the league’s highest-paid running back.
Breaking his silence (albeit barely) following 40 holdout days, Elliott, who was mobbed at the airport upon arrival, said “I’ve been ready” to return to Cowboys headquarters.
The tea leaves continue to point to Elliott and the Cowboys reaching agreement on a new contract by Wednesday’s practice. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported earlier that negotiations between the sides are in the “final stages,” with the workhorse back set to sign a record-breaking pact, although there are a few language issues still left to hammer out, such as Elliott’s insistence on a frontloaded structure.
“This thing is not done, but from what I understand, they are, at the very least, in the final stages of a deal that would make Ezekiel Elliott the highest-paid running back in the NFL,” Rapoport said. “This would eclipse Todd Gurley’s number — if this gets done. It is not done, from what I understand. There are still a few significant obstacles to overcome as far as how the money is paid and when it is paid. But, from what I understand, both sides are at least hopeful that Elliott is on the field Wednesday when the Cowboys begin practice for the game on Sunday.”
Traveling with Elliott from Cabo San Lucas, where the two-time NFL rushing champ had been training amid his standoff, was agent Rocky Arceneaux, who termed the talks as “very, very close” to being completed.
“I think Zeke showed his commitment by coming back to Dallas,” Arceneaux said, per the Dallas Morning News. “We didn’t come here not to do a deal.”
If they can come to terms, the Cowboys will have locked down two offensive studs in a matter of hours after handing $50 million to right tackle La’el Collins, including a record $35 million in total guarantees. Dallas created $5.7 million in salary cap space by extending Collins, money they’ll put toward assuaging Elliott’s financial wants.
“Both sides kept it pretty civil,” Arceneaux said. “He’s excited about being back in Dallas. It’s been a long journey.”
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Time to Prepare?
Assuming Elliott puts pen to paper by Wednesday’s practice, the question becomes: Will he be in game shape for Week 1? He’s reportedly at his lowest playing weight since his 2016 rookie year, but football conditioning requires more than wind sprints on sandy beaches.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett would not provide much clarity, deflecting several questions Monday regarding Zeke’s reintegration period into the offense.
“That’s a hypothetical. Zeke is as capable as anybody I know,” Garrett said, per the team’s official website. “He’s an experienced player, he’s been a really good player for us, he knows our system of football. I don’t think they’ll be a lot of learning there. he’s a smart guy, an instinctive guy.
“But again, that’s a hypothetical. We’re just focused on the guys we have right now. We’re going to go practice as well as we can the right way to prepare for the Giants.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL