You may have heard that this Tuesday, August 6th, is an important date in this Ezekiel Elliott contract holdout. What happens if Zeke doesn’t report to training camp in the next few days, and what could that mean for his ongoing negotiations with the Dallas Cowboys?
NFL players who don’t report to their training camps by Tuesday lose an accrued season toward free agency. That is important for many players as you need four seasons to qualify for unrestricted free agency.
Players with only three accrued seasons are restricted free agents, subject to the RFA tenders and teams’ ability to match any offer. Two accrued seasons or less means you’re an exclusive rights free agent and are basically stuck with whatever your current team wants to pay.
This is very relevant for players coming off the standard four-year rookie contract; they want all four to be accrued seasons so that they can be unrestricted free agents at the end of the deal.
But Ezekiel Elliott has a five-year contract.
Thanks to Zeke being a former first-round draft pick, Dallas had a team option to add a fifth year to the end of his rookie deal. To nobody’s surprised, they exercised this right back in April and extended Elliott’s contract through the 2020 season.
That fifth-year option, which in some ways acts as a discounted franchise tag, will pay Elliott a little over $9 million that season.
August 6th Doesn’t Matter for Elliott
Because of having two years left on his contract, Ezekiel Elliott won’t be phased by this Tuesday deadline. It’s irrelevant as he can pick up his fourth accrued season in 2020 if needed.
Hopefully, it’s also irrelevant because Zeke’s goal in all of this is to get a long-term contract with the Cowboys and never hit free agency at all.
The worst-case scenario for Elliott is that Dallas refuses his contract demands and he’s stuck playing out these next two years. Then the Cowboys could hit him with the franchise tag in 2021, which would obviously pay him well but without the long-term security or immediate raise he wants.
Even worse, it means Zeke would be 27 years old when he finally becomes an unrestricted free agent. It’s hard to find a long-term deal at that point, although Le’Veon Bell just did with the Jets.
There are still many ways this can go. We have no idea yet if Elliott is willing to sit out a full season the way Bell did, but there’s no question that his current holdout could extend well into the preseason and beyond.
Bottom line; the August 6th deadline doesn’t matter for Zeke. Sorry to dash your hopes.