Over the course of the past eight months of discussion surrounding Ezekiel Elliott's contract sides several point of views were taken in the debate. For those of the analytical world, the idea of paying Ezekiel Elliott a top of market contract seemed like a bad idea. For others, the idea of the Dallas Cowboys playing football without Elliott in the long-term plans struck a chord. Others still were okay with the idea of bringing back Ezekiel Elliott with a long-term extension, took a wait and see approach and wanted to see what the contract structure looked like.
If you'd been paying attention to what the front office was saying and what Ezekiel Elliott and his representatives were doing, it was plainly obvious that the Dallas Cowboys were going to extend Elliott before week one. The Cowboys, however, weren't going to just roll over and let Elliott and his agent get what they want from the jump. That doesn't afford them the ability to play hardball in other negotiations when necessary.
With the details of the contract now in the forefront, this is one of those deals where everyone involved wins.
How Ezekiel Elliott Won in His Contract Extension
In Ezekiel Elliott's six-year $90 million extension, he becomes the highest-paid running back in the NFL, which was the goal. His $50 million guaranteed is $5 million more than Running Back Todd Gurley. For any player to be the highest-paid player at their position is a huge win for the player and the representatives.
The Dallas Cowboys weren't going to roll over and just hand it to Elliott and his threat of a holdout brought this contract into being. Had Elliott been in training camp and not held out, I doubt this contract gets finalized before the season.
As we've seen with Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, who came to training camp, they and the Cowboys appear content to ride out the 2019 season and see where things stand down the road. If Elliott would have attended training camp and attempted to negotiate his contract extension, the Dallas Cowboys front office wouldn't have felt the pressure to get a deal done.
Being able to get this contract extension finalized just days from opening week one showed just how much value the Dallas Cowboys place on Ezekiel Elliott.
Ezekiel Elliott has been the focal point of the Dallas Cowboys offense each of his first three seasons, but with the move to Kellen Moore and the drafting of Tony Pollard, Elliott may not be run into the ground like he has been his first three seasons.
It's likely that the Dallas Cowboys increase their rate of pass attempts in 2019 as the NFL moves to more of a passing league. With the progression of Dak Prescott, Elliott may face fewer eight and nine-man boxes in this next part of his career.
With Tony Pollard, the Dallas Cowboys finally have a dynamic running back who can take some of the pressure off of Elliott to carry the load. The Cowboys will be able to give Pollard some of the passing down snaps and potentially more carries than Elliott's former backups received. If they truly view him as an Alvin Kamara-type player, then they need to make sure they give Pollard Alvin Kamara-type touches.
If the Cowboys pass it more and if they let Pollard handle a higher rate of the running backs snaps moving forward, it will only preserve Elliott for a longer portion of this contract and potentially keep him fresh for crunch time in December, January, and hopefully February.
How the Dallas Cowboys Won the Ezekiel Elliott Deal
In the contract structure, the Dallas Cowboys created a way for them to walk away if necessary in 2023. According to OverTheCap.com, the Dallas Cowboys could designate Ezekiel Elliott a post-June 1st release and save $10 million dollars in cap space while accumulating only $6.7 million in dead money. Ezekiel Elliott will get all of his guaranteed money in the first four years of his new contract, which essentially makes the new deal a four-year $50 million contract. The dead money from the deal is related to his prorated signing bonus that gets spread out over the first six years of the contract.
The contract structure allows the Dallas Cowboys to walk away from the deal as Elliott goes into his age 28 season, which is typically the time where running backs begin to experience an age-related decline. The Dallas Cowboys walked away from DeMarco Murray as he was entering his age 27 season.
The Cowboys may value running backs, as they showed by drafting Elliott fourth overall in 2016 and paying him this rich contract, but it's also evident that they value young running backs. It's likely that Elliott would have to be playing at a very high level in 2022 for the team to bring him back in 2023. The good thing is, they'll have the option to do so and his cap hit of $15 million in 2023 won't hit the cap near as hard as it might in 2020.
Essentially the Dallas Cowboys have team options for four seasons from 2023 to 2026. In order to see the life of the contract, Elliott would have to have a Frank Gore kind of durability and longevity.
How Everyone Else Wins
The Dallas Cowboys are a better football team with Ezekiel Elliott than without him. It's just true. Though many attempt to attribute the 2017 season to not having Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup, that's actually a false narrative. The three-game slump around Thanksgiving had more to do with Tyron Smith missing than Elliott.
Though that 2017 collapse had little to do with Elliott's absence, as a running back, pass catcher, and pass protector, there are few players in the NFL that do it as well as Elliott. He's the best running back in the league and that makes your offense better.
We've seen over the years how much opposing defensive coordinators respect Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys running game. The problem's been that the passing game hasn't been aggressive enough at times to make teams pay for walking eight or nine men into the box. With the promotion of Kellen Moore and the addition of Jon Kitna to the coaching staff, the offense should take a step forward in its effectiveness and its aggressiveness.
Ezekiel Elliott draws attention unlike Tony Pollard if would have been the starting running back. With teams paying more attention to Elliott, it will open things up more for Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, and Jason Witten in the passing game. Look for the Dallas Cowboys to take more shots down the field in an attempt to exploit 1-on-1 coverages on the outside as the defense loads up to stop the running game.
In addition to Elliott's ability as a runner, he's a weapon in the passing game and not only because he caught a lot of passes in 2018. In the Detroit game last year, we saw Ezekiel Elliott streak down the sideline on a "go" route and make a beautiful basket catch to put the Cowboys in position to win that game early in the season. He's got the potential to be a dangerous weapon in the passing game if Moore sends him on routes that get him further down the field. That ability to catch passes out of the backfield or split out wide makes Elliott more than just an elite runner, but a chess piece in which Moore can use to exploit matchups in the passing game.
While the biggest impact Elliott will have is on the offensive side of the football, he also has an impact on the defense as well. Because the Dallas Cowboys can play grind it out football and go on long drives, it allows the defense to stay fresh throughout the game.
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Though this was a long, drawn-out process to get the contract extension done with Ezekiel Elliott, it's a deal that's going to be well worth it in 2019 and in the coming seasons. It remains to be seen how many of the eight years of team control Elliott will be around for, but the deal is a good one for both sides. For Cowboys Nation, the deal means that Ezekiel Elliott will be punishing and hurdling opponents for the foreseeable future with a star on his helmet.
Ultimately, this deal is going to lead to a lot more wins for the Dallas Cowboys.
Cowboys’ Trysten Hill to Make Regular Season Debut vs Dolphins?
A lot has been made of the Dallas Cowboys' decision to make 2019 second-round pick Trysten Hill inactive for the first two games of the regular season. With Taco Charlton also being inactive, people attempted to compare the two to make broad generalizations about Hill's present and future in the NFL. The problem is these two are vastly different players in different situations.
Speaking to 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Friday, Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones talked about where Trysten Hill was in his development and ability. It sounds as if Hill is ready to make his regular-season debut for the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
Trysten Hill will make his NFL debut Sunday vs. Miami. Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on @1053thefan: "He's ready to go. It's time for him to go. Rod's fired up about what he can bring to the table here. He's had a really good week of practice.
With Antwaun Woods and Tyrone Crawford likely out for this game, the Dallas Cowboys could use some help on the interior defensive line. Christian Covington and Maliek Collins are the only true defensive tackles set to be active for the Cowboys, which makes Hill's debut a foregone conclusion. With Crawford and Woods dealing with injuries Hill will have the opportunity to play a lot against a Miami Dolphins offensive line that has allowed 10 sacks in their first two games.
Crawford and Woods' absences means the Dallas Cowboys will have around 40-50 snaps to be distributed to the rest of the defensive line. Christian Covington will get the first shot to play the 1-technique defensive tackle. Kerry Hyder and Joe Jackson will get some of those Tyrone Crawford snaps since they can play both on the interior and on the edge like Crawford can.
There will be opportunities for Hill, especially if the Dallas Cowboys can get out to a big lead. If he's active, which all signs indicate he will be, then the Cowboys' coaching staff will use this game to get Hill as much experience as possible.
Trysten Hill is a player that Rod Marinelli and even Kris Richard are really excited about. They believe that he has what it takes to be an elite defensive tackle in the NFL, he just needs to refine certain aspects of his game. Hill has elite quickness and get off on the snap. He's very good at getting penetration and causing disruption in the backfield. He needs to work on his technique and playing with better leverage when engaged with blockers, but the tools and the effort are there for Marinelli to turn him into the dominant 3-technique defensive tackle that they've been looking for.
Facing the Miami Dolphins on Sunday will is an excellent opportunity for Trysten Hill to get some experience and earn opportunities to be on the gameday roster in the future.
Trysten Hill has the skills to be a force for the Dallas Cowboys. With the depth that the Cowboys have along the defensive line, it's not always possible to bring everyone you have to the gameday roster. With injuries and earned opportunities, the time has come for Trysten Hill to get an opportunity to show his skills in the regular season. That's a good thing for the Dallas Cowboys. Not so much for Josh Rosen and the Miami Dolphins.
Report: Cowboys S Xavier Woods Could Only Miss One Game
The Dallas Cowboys might not be without their rising star at free safety as long as they originally thought. According to DallasCowboys.com's Bryan Broaddus, Xavier Woods could only miss this Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.
They gave him a physical and didn't sign so that tells me a little something. Xavier Woods is not going to be out 4-6 weeks. Might miss one game... https://t.co/EFcpjlZnPH
Woods suffered a high ankle sprain this past Sunday against the Washington Redskins that was supposed to keep him out 4-6 weeks. If he is only out one game that would be amazing news for the Cowboys with the toughest part of their schedule coming up. Safety Darian Thompson is set to start this Sunday opposite Jeff Heath in place of Woods, with rookie Donovan Wilson and Kavon Frazier also their for insurance. Will Xavier Woods be back against the New Orleans Saints next week? Something to keep an eye on. More details to come.
Devin Smith Has Opportunity to Shine in Michael Gallup’s Absence
In the wake of today's news that Michael Gallup will miss the next 2-4 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery to trim the meniscus in his left knee. Gallup was having another solid game for the Dallas Cowboys when he suffered the injury. It's an unfortunate setback for Gallup was emerging as a go-to player for Dak Prescott in the passing offense.
With Gallup's absence comes an opportunity for other wide receivers on the depth chart. The player most likely to benefit the most is former second-round pick and first-year Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Devin Smith.
Smith exploded on offense for the Cowboys in week two against the Washington Redskins. He had three receptions on three targets for 74 yards and a 51-yard touchdown reception that was the first score of the game for the Dallas Cowboys. After Gallup went down with the injury, Smith was the immediate beneficiary of snaps, catching his other two passes on the drive after Gallup's injury, including one that picked up the first down.
Devin Smith will take on a larger role with Michael Gallup out. This catch yesterday by Smith was his first TD since 2015. He has battled back from two significant knee injuries.
Devin Smith played 26% of the offensive snaps on Sunday and was dynamic and effective in the passing game. Afte the Gallup injury, any time the offense was in 11 personnel (3 wide receivers) Devin Smith was the next man up.
They used Smith on play-action twice and on an RPO signifying their belief in his ability to make plays in the passing game. The former second-round pick from Ohio State has excellent speed and showed out throughout the preseason and training camp to earn his spot on the 53-man roster out of training camp.
In fact, the team felt so good about Smith coming into the season that they were willing to subject both Cedrick Wilson and Jon'vea Johnson to waivers before placing them on the practice squad.
If Michael Gallup does have to sit out for four weeks, then Smith has an excellent opportunity to cement himself within the Dallas Cowboys receiving hierarchy and potentially audition for his next job in 2020, either with the Dallas Cowboys or someone else around the NFL. Smith had likely earned the opportunity to play ahead of Tavon Austin in the offense -- whenever Austin is back -- and how the next two to four weeks go could have a huge impact on the Dallas Cowboys and his own future.
With the emergence of Michael Gallup toward the end of 2018 and to start the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys offense has been much healthier and balanced. It hasn't had to rely on one player to carry the offense and the passing game in particular.
When the Dallas Cowboys have several receiving threats it makes life easier for everyone on offense and much more challenging for opposing defenses. With Devin Smith coming into the lineup, teams are going to have to respect his downfield speed, which could open things up in the short to intermediate areas for the rest of the offense. After his 51 yard touchdown on Sunday, opposing defenses will have to pay attention to Smith.
In week three against at tanking Miami Dolphins squad, Smith may have another big game. In week one, the Miami Dolphins allowed Baltimore Ravens rookie Wide Receiver Marquise Brown to go off for four catches, 147 yards, and two touchdowns. The two touchdowns were on receptions of 47 and 83 yards.
The Dallas Cowboys need Devin Smith to be an effective player in order to keep the balance they've had in their target distribution. Teams will shade coverage toward Amari Cooper with Gallup out and Devin Smith will have to take advantage. Over the last few months, Smith has shown flashes of the ability that once made him a second-round pick. Now he's got a huge opportunity ahead of him and the Dallas Cowboys need him to take advantage of it to have the same level of success they've experienced in the first two weeks of the season.
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