Dallas Cowboys Star Named Most Overpaid Player Entering 2020

Ezekiel Elliott

Getty Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott has seen better weeks.

Freshly criticized by an anonymous NFL coach, the Pro Bowl running back drew the dubious honor of being named the Cowboys‘ most overpaid player heading into the 2020 season.

Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon considered defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence or wide receiver Amari Cooper before settling on Elliott, whose salary “takes the cake.

“He’s averaged a phenomenal 96.5 rushing yards per game in four NFL seasons, but that number dropped to 84.8 last year,” Gagnon wrote. “Besides, despite all of his success, the Cowboys have won just one playoff game in the Elliott era.

Teams oughta be learning their lesson regarding running backs. According to Spotrac, seven players at that devalued position had non-rookie contracts with average annual salaries higher than $7 million in 2019, and none of those participated in the postseason.”

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Countering the Argument

Following a prolonged holdout last summer, Elliott finagled a six-year, $90 million deal from Dallas. The total value made him the richest RB in league history, though his average annual salary of $15 million — then the high-water mark — was bested this offseason by Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey, who scored a four-year, $63.063 million extension.

Elliott provided a solid return on Jerry Jones’ massive investment, converting 301 carries into 1,357 yards (fourth-most in the NFL) and 12 touchdowns (tied for fifth). He busted four rushes of at least 20 yards and 25.91 percent of his attempts went for first downs. He averaged a respectable 4.5 yards per tote and cut his fumbles in half (3) from 2018.

He wasn’t the Zeke that took the league by storm in 2016 or twice won the NFL’s rushing title, but he easily maintained his status as a top-five player at his position. As to Gagnon’s point that Dallas hasn’t achieved postseason success in the Elliott era … well, much of that can be attributed to poor coaching and defense, too.

Could you knock Jones for investing in a back in this day and age? Sure. But Elliott is a true three-down workhorse who often puts the offense on his back, succeeding when his quarterback can’t. There’s only a handful of these RBs worth the money, and Zeke unequivocally is among them.

Lawrence a Better Candidate

The brash pass-rusher long sought his payday and arguably disappeared after he got it. Lawrence totaled just five sacks last season, a steep fall from 14.5 in 2017 and 10.5 in 2018. His tackles (45) and QB hits (16) also were down from previous years.

Lawrence was badly outperformed by one-and-done defensive end Robert Quinn, who paced the Cowboys with 11.5 sacks before defecting to the Chicago Bears in free agency. So badly outperformed, in fact, that Lawrence vowed to play better in 2020.

Lawrence signed a $105 million contract and is due to collect $16.9 million in base salary this coming season — with a whopping $21.9 salary-cap charge. He, more so than Elliott, deserves the spotlight treatment.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL