Thirteen months of NFL investigation into Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott have boiled down to three days of much of the same finger-pointing, accusations of procedural wrongdoing, and protection of public perception as Elliott began his appeal of the six game suspension issued on August 11th Tuesday.
Presenting his case to arbitrator Harold Henderson from an undisclosed New York location, the belief from the start of Elliott's appeal would be that some new information would need to be presented from his team for the suspension to be reversed or reduced. After over 25 hours of deliberation, not only has Elliott been able to do just this with the recently hired Jeffrey Kessler on his side (a lawyer that the NFL knows all too well), but plenty of new substantial details have surfaced on the league's poor handling of their initial investigation.
NFLPA alleging a "league-orchestrated conspiracy..to hide critical information which would completely exonerate Elliott" https://t.co/WUn9hK94g2
Henderson of course still represents the league and has been known to still rule in their favor despite a record of reducing some significant suspensions, but pressure that he reportedly now faces to make a decision will only expedite the airing of any final accusations on both sides over the coming days.
Ezekiel Elliott has another card left to play, as anything but a complete reversal of his six game suspension will likely lead to his case against the NFL reaching the courts. For the NFL, this appeal was their last chance to contain any wrongdoing they'll be forced to admit to and come to the correct decision on Elliott.
Although this is not solely a suspension handed down for domestic violence, Elliott's involvement with Tiffany Thompson remains the most important event, and an incident like the ones that led to Thompson's bruises (used as forensic evidence in the league's investigation) can only lead to a black and white ruling - whoever caused this harm to Thompson deserves legal consequence, and that person is either Ezekiel Elliott or not.
People within the NFL believe it was very likely not Ezekiel Elliott that abused Thompson.
In #Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott's appeal, they had a current NFL employee in Kia Roberts testify against the NFL. I mean... wow.
We've known that Elliott himself, the Columbus District Attorney, Jerry Jones, and many others believe Zeke is entirely innocent based on the evidence that has been made public thus far. What became known yesterday - a stunning addition to the above list - is much more volatile for the NFL.
Kia Roberts is the NFL's director of investigations, and has testified to Henderson that she recommended no suspension for Ezekiel Elliott following Roberts' interview with Thompson. Roberts' contributions to the case never saw the light of day, as it was ultimately Roger Goodell's power under the Collective Bargaining Agreement that spurred Elliott's suspension.
NFLPA filing calls for the court in Eastern Texas to vacate any suspension of Ezekiel Elliott based on the process issues. https://t.co/g9YRPaUXrT
From the start, the NFLPA has also been defending Ezekiel Elliott stronger then they have publicly for any player in recent memory. Late last night the news broke that they are pursuing a conspiracy case against the league in their orchestration of hiding key evidence that would exonerate Elliott.
It is unclear at this time what this most recent news means for the immediate results of Elliott's appeal, or how the NFLPA is expecting Henderson to rule.
Elliott was never arrested or charged by police after an investigation into Tiffany Thompson’s accusations. Not only that, but Thompson’s credibility has been ripped to shreds from more than one angle. Zeke even filed a harassment claim against her last year for repeated phone calls and messages, including threats to blackmail him.
This quote comes from Inside The Star Staff Writer Jess Haynie's deeper look at the NFL's handling of domestic violence as it pertains to the precedent they've tried to set - or not - with a young star of the game in Ezekiel Elliott. The fact that Elliott was never arrested or charged continues to loom incredibly large.
Roger Goodell never spoke to Thompson himself through the investigation, and Harold Henderson barred her testimony from Elliott's appeal. Instead, he has ended up with something much more poignant - further proof of Thompson's inability to be trustworthy, the league's ability to fairly investigate one of their players, and potentially even additional direct evidence of Elliott's innocence towards Thompson.
The Cowboys are all set to play the New York Giants to kickoff the regular season in nine days. As of this moment, they would still be playing without Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield. One way or another, Harold Henderson is going to have to make an incredibly tough decision very soon to cement Elliott's week one status - and more importantly his next step.
An Ezekiel Elliott that's strapping on his helmet and carrying the rock for America's Team on Sunday Night Football may be the best case scenario for the Dallas Cowboys, but it could be far from that for the NFL regardless of Elliott's intention to take this case to court following the announcement of these appeal results.
To think how incredibly close we may be to saying, "remember that time..." when it comes to Ezekiel Elliott being suspended for the first six games of the 2017 season which is upon us. We also may be just as close to collectively remembering where we were as Cowboys Nation when a second-year running back brought the NFL to court and created change in one of the most powerful businesses going right now.
Where Does Dak Prescott Rank Among NFL Quarterbacks?
The quarterback position is one of the most difficult positions to evaluate in the NFL. As hard as it can be for a quarterback to understand and execute an offense against a defense that is trying to keep them off balance, it can be equally difficult to try and determine where each quarterback ranks compared to his peers.
Last week, The Sporting News attempted to do just that with their 2019 Quarterback Rankings. It's a pretty good list, and I highly recommend checking it out.
This was the criteria for how Vinnie Iyer,
"These rankings are based on how each QB performed last season and the upside of how each might perform in 2019. No matter how many Super Bowl rings or MVP awards a QB has won, or the number of efficient passing seasons he has posted in the past, history is a small part of the equation. We thought about where each QB ended up last season in terms of effectiveness, production and durability, and then we thought even more about how his talent and offensive support set him up for success (or lack thereof) this season."
Vinnie Iyer - The Sporting News
Dak Prescott came in at number 14 on the list, three spots behind NFC East counterpart Carson Wentz.
Here's what NFL Analyst Vinnie Iyer had to say:
"Prescott dazzled as a rookie in 2016 and slumped as a sophomore in 2017. Last season, he was closer to his rookie form in a year that largely landed between both extremes. Prescott got hot in the second half of the season once he clicked with new No. 1 wideout Amari Cooper, creating a trickle-down effect that should continue with more legitimate overall weapons in 2019."
Vinnie Iyer - The Sporting News
While these lists are rather subjective and it can be a difficult task, I think Vinnie's pretty close on where Dak Prescott sits in the NFL at this point in his career.
It's hard to argue with his top five. Each could have an argument for being the best quarterback in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes just won the NFL MVP, Tom Brady has won all the Super Bowls, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers put up ridiculous numbers year in and year out, and Russell Wilson was just made the highest paid player in NFL history.
While I think Dak probably sits in the 9-15 range, here are the five quarterbacks ranked ahead or Prescott.
9. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
10. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
11. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
12. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
13. DeShaun Watson, Houston Texans
I feel there's an argument to be made that Prescott is a few spots to low.
As an avid Oklahoma Sooners homer, I find it a bit presumptuous to have Baker Mayfield as one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the NFL. Mostly because he's only played 14 games at this point in his NFL career. Mayfield had a tremendous rookie season and has given Cleveland Browns fans hope that the franchise is finally headed in the right direction. As much as I love Baker Mayfield and think he's going to be a great NFL quarterback, it's hard for me to put him in the top 10 at this point in his career.
Ben Roethlisberger is easily a top 10 quarterback. He has skins on the wall and over the last several seasons has been a prolific passer in the NFL. Some of the games he plays in the offseason talking about retirement aren't great, but it's hard to argue he hasn't had a borderline Hall of Fame career.
The most difficult argument I think comes when you compare Dak Prescott and DeShaun Watson. The two seem to be on similar career trajectories at this point.
Watson has a better passer rating, a slightly better completion percentage and has more total touchdowns per game than Dak Prescott for his career. If Watson had played as many games as Dak Prescott to this point, at his current touchdown rate, he'd have 108 total touchdowns. 23 more than Dak Prescott.
The two that I have the biggest issue with on this list are the two he gets compared to the most because they were taken first and second overall in the same draft that Dak Prescott was taken in the fourth round; Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.
Dak Prescott's thrown for near as many touchdowns as Carson Wentz, who leads the three, but if you consider how many touchdowns Prescott's rushed for in his career, he sits 13 total touchdowns ahead of Wentz and 16 total touchdowns more than Jared Goff. Dak Prescott has a better career passer rating than both of those quarterbacks and is right there in yards per attempt with both guys.
Dak Prescott can claim more team success than Carson Wentz. One could argue that Jared Goff didn't play his best on the way to representing the NFC in the most recent Super Bowl. Dak Prescott has started every game of his NFL career while Carson Wentz has missed eight games due to season-ending injuries each of the last two seasons. Durability is a huge issue for Wentz at this point. I'd rather have the guy who you know will be on the field.
If I were going to rerank Dak Prescott with the five quarterbacks ranked directly ahead of him, I'd go:
9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
10. DeShaun Watson, Houston Texans
11. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
12. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
13. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
14. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
Of course, this is my attempt to be as unbiased as possible and would completely understand if you wanted to rank them differently. There's no perfect way to rank players in the NFL and I applaud the Sporting News guys for giving it this effort. I can see arguments for Ben Roethlisberger, Baker Mayfield, and DeShaun Watson ahead of Dak Prescott, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.
Dak Prescott is a top 12 quarterback in the NFL and an ascending player in this league.
If you were going to rank the six quarterbacks listed above, how would you rank them? Let us know in the comment section.
Dallas Cowboys Should Pursue Recently Released DT Gerald McCoy
The Dallas Cowboys have been reinforcing their defensive interior all offseason and look to be in a good position as they get ready to begin offseason training activities and minicamp. Yesterday, I wrote about the possibility of trading for New York Jets Defensive Tackle Leonard Williams. Another defensive tackle has now become available, long-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy.
Per a report from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs are going to release McCoy after nine seasons with the club.
BREAKING: DT Gerald McCoy has been informed by the Bucs of their plans to release him after nine seasons. The team decided not to pay him the $13-million salary he was owed for 2019.
McCoy is the definition of a cap casualty as he was set to make $13 million on the cap this year. At age 30 in 2018, McCoy still had six sacks as the Buccaneers 3-technique defensive tackle.
Throughout his career, he's been one of the more productive defensive tackles in the league. From 2012 to 2017 he was selected to the Pro Bowl six times and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2013.
Since 2012, McCoy's averaged 7.2 sacks, 36.8 total tackles, 9.85 tackles for loss, and 17.85 quarterback hits a season. Over the last three seasons, McCoy's averaged just under seven sacks a season. In 2018, he finished with 38 total pressures, which was 19th among all interior defensive linemen. Only Tyrone Crawford from the Cowboys had nearly as many total pressures on the interior with 37.
Though the Cowboys have brought in Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder, and Trysten Hill to fortify a defensive interior with Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, and Tyrone Crawford, Gerald McCoy would make an excellent addition to their rotation. Mike Fisher of 247 Sports is reporting that the Cowboys currently have "very little interest" in the defensive tackle.
That's plausible. The Dallas Cowboys have a ton of depth on the defensive line at the moment, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't pursue a talented player such as Gerald McCoy. McCoy has been an excellent 3-tech but also has the size to contribute at 1-tech on passing downs if you need him to.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has a ton of depth and it may not make sense to bring in a guy like McCoy, but they should. Much like the trade for Robert Quinn, you're putting your eggs in the 2019 Super Bowl basket and trying to maximize the talent that you have on the roster this year. They're a team primed to make a deep run in January and McCoy can help them do that.
As in everything, it will come down to the price tag. However, given that the Dallas Cowboys currently have just under $20 million available on the 2019 salary cap, they can get a deal done with McCoy and continue working on the long-term contracts for their star core of players.
Gerald McCoy makes the defense better. He's another guy along the defensive line, in addition to DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, that the offensive line has to think about. He makes things easier for everyone at every level of the defense and shouldn't cost a ton to sign on a one-year deal.
BREAKING: Ezekiel Elliott Handcuffed After Incident with Security Guard
TMZ has released footage of Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott being handcuffed and escorted by police after an altercation with security at a Las Vegas music festival over the weekend.
Elliott was not arrested and no charges have been filed.
Ezekiel Elliott handcuffed but not charged after incident at Las Vegas music festival https://t.co/NJQ6csGgnv
The video shows Zeke engaged in what appears to be an argument with a female companion. Elliott is seen following her through the crowd, and then security starts to get involved after Zeke moves his body to block her from walking away.
One of the security guards says something that attracts Elliott's attention, causing him to move in closer. The guard falls backward from minimal contact. It as soon after that police get involved.
There isn't much here that would cause trouble for the average player, but that's hardly Elliott's situation. He's one of the most prolific stars in the NFL and already has history with the league for domestic violence and personal conduct issues.
Remember, no charges were filed when the NFL gave Elliott a six-game suspension in 2017 after accusations from an ex-girlfriend of domestic violence.
We will have to wait and see how Roger Goodell chooses to treat this latest issue.
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