According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, Ezekiel Elliott's camp has informed the Dallas Cowboys that the superstar running back won't play in 2019 without a new deal in place. The news may come off as a surprise at first, but considering Zeke has yet to report to training camp, the threat only makes sense. It seems like losing an accrued season toward free agency by not reporting by August 6th isn't a problem for Elliott knowing he still has the 2020 season on his contract to do so. Not to mention, he knows that a deal is eventually coming.
Back in Oxnard for #Cowboys camp today and Wednesday and a few new details on the contracts front. I’m told the team has “generous” offers on the table for their QB, RB and WR. Putting each one in the top 5 “highest paid” at their positions.
— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) August 6, 2019
While it's nice to hear the Cowboys are willing to pay big-time money for their big-time players, it isn't just about being a Top-5 highest paid player in annual average per year. It's also about contract structure, guaranteed money, and many more factors.
What differentiates Zeke's situation from Dak and Cooper is the fact that Elliott could become the highest-paid player at his position. He has the credentials to ask to be the number one guy in the league. Meanwhile, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper will not be setting the market that way (although they'll be getting paid).
Something else we can't ignore is the fact that we know the market value for quarterbacks and wide receivers is going nowhere but up, while the running back's market is as uncertain as ever, as the league's trend continues to center around the passing game and analytics continue to discuss their real value.
But what should we make of Elliott's threat? Is he really going to sit out the entire 2019 season if the sides can't agree to a contract extension? Personally, I wouldn't recommend overreacting to ESPN's report.
Ezekiel Elliott's threat definitely makes things more interesting, but we shouldn't take it for granted. Even if a deal isn't reached, I'd be surprised if Zeke sits out the 2019 season. Yes, people like to compare his situation to Le'Veon Bell's, but it isn't that similar. Other than they are two running backs who have held out, the reality for both of them is different.
Last year, when Bell didn't report with the Steelers, he ended up becoming a free agent. He didn't sign the second franchise tag Pittsburgh's front office had assigned him. Simply put, he wasn't under contract.
Zeke, on the other hand, has still two years left on his contract and skipping the season would push his current deal a year. If he sits out, he won't be hitting free agency next year.
Of course, missing the regular season would affect the Cowboys. Heading into 2019, Dallas has what it takes to contend for the Super Bowl. But not having #21 in the backfield would hurt, a lot. As we wait for the always-elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy, Jerry Jones' confidence in getting the deals done better translate to Elliott showing up sooner rather than later.