Ezekiel Elliott knows a thing or two about negotiating with the Dallas Cowboys. Thus, speaking from experience, the highest-paid running back in league history is confident that impending unrestricted free agent quarterback Dak Prescott will get his just desserts.
“Dak’s our leader,” Elliott told NFL Network’s Jane Slater from the Pro Bowl in Orlando. “He’s the heart and soul of this whole team … He’s gonna get his money.”
The team’s brain trust certainly believes so, too. After stating earlier this month his intention to “land the plane and get his deal done,” Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones claimed a new contract for the franchise signal-caller is “urgent” and his “No. 1 priority” over the coming weeks.
“It’s been urgent for us,” Jones said Tuesday at the Senior Bowl, via Pro Football Talk. “We certainly want to get that done. That’s our No. 1 priority as we go into the offseason is to . . . hopefully find some resolution to it and get that done.”
The sides, Jones previously revealed, were on the precipice of an agreement before the start of the 2019 campaign. And although talks eventually crumbled, creating a nationally-documented standstill, Dallas aims to reach an accord with its “quarterback of the future,” who’s scheduled to hit the open market for the first time in his career on March 18.
“That’s on Jerry and myself. He’s our future,” Jones said on Jan. 10. “I think he stepped up and improved in all ways last year. … We went over this in depth with Coach McCarthy and he thinks [Dak] is a top-end, top-caliber quarterback. We can do everything we want to do and more with Dak. [McCarthy] can’t wait to spend time with him. We’ve got to land the plane on his contract and get him signed up sooner than later. He deserves everything he has coming. We got real, real close there to start the season and just didn’t finish up. He’s so laser-focused on wanting to win football games and compete that he really didn’t want the distraction once we didn’t get it done in that first week of going back and forth with the contract. We just got to move forward. He’s our quarterback of the future. I’ll take him any time when you go to war against these guys. We’re fortunate to have him.”
Prescott reportedly is seeking a deal worth $40 million annually, which would set a new league record. While that likely won’t materialize, it’s clear he’s primed to cash in after earning just $2.025 million this past year. He’ll reset the landscape until Houston expectedly rewards Deshaun Watson or Kansas City hands reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes what is sure to be a gargantuan extension.
The sport’s richest QB, in terms of annual salary, is Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who’s pulling in $35 million a season as part of his four-year, $140 million pact. The highest-paid, in terms of total value, is Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, who landed a five-year, $150 million pact in 2018.
The Cowboys have over two-dozen unsigned players careening toward free agency, some more important than others — Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and cornerback Byron Jones to name a few. The club is projected to wield $81 million in salary cap room, enough to lock down all three if they choose to.
Prescott, though, takes precedence, considering the position he plays and new coach Mike McCarthy’s declaration that Dallas’ offense will revolve around the two-time Pro Bowl passer. If the parties are unable to strike an agreement, the team has the franchise tag at its disposal and would execute it.
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Zeke Reacts to Garrett’s Firing, McCarthy’s Hiring
It’s been a half-decade since Elliott played for a coach not named Jason Garrett. You’d have to go back to 2015 when he was a junior at Ohio State, and Garrett was midway through his decade-long Dallas tenure.
Five years later, Elliott will play for a coach not named Jason Garrett. And it feels … strange to the superstar RB.
“I think it will be weird, something that I’m not used to,” he said Wednesday at the Pro Bowl, via the Dallas Morning News. “But change is hard, but sometimes good. Sometimes you need change. We’ll see what we have going for us.”
The Cowboys, of course, anticlimactically dismissed Garrett on Jan. 5 in the wake of the club’s seventh playoff-less campaign since 2010. He was quickly replaced by McCarthy, the former Packers Super Bowl-winning coach, who evidently shared an encouraging conversation with Zeke during his initial rounds at The Star.
”I got an opportunity to talk to him one time, and it was a nice visit a couple weeks ago,” Elliott said Wednesday, via ESPN. “Wasn’t very long, but kinda getting to know each other a bit, talking a little ball, what we thought we needed to do going into next year.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL