Article by: Kevin Eagleson
After one week of pre-season play one of the league's best players, Ezekiel Elliot, continues to holdout in pursuit of a new contract. Elliot is undoubtedly one of, if not the best running backs in football, however the Ohio State product still has two years remaining on his rookie contract. ‘Zeke’ wants to be paid now, but the decision is ultimately up to the Dallas Cowboys organization, who has more leverage in negotiations than people think. Here is why “America’s Team” should make the right decision, and trade Ezekiel Elliot.
As previously stated, Zeke is one of the league’s best backs. Since being drafted, the first rounder has led the league in rushing two of three years. In fact, the only year he was not rushing leader was 2017 where Elliot served a six-game suspension. What is even more impressive was upon his return that year, he led the league in yards per game (98), so one could assume Zeke was on pace to lead the league in rushing once again. The numbers do not lie, Elliot is one of the most productive players in the NFL, and a major component of the Cowboys’ offense who simply cannot be replaced… to a degree. The Cowboys have an above-average quarterback leading an improving passing attack and one of the best offensive lines in football. There is no question they could plug in almost anyone at running back and they would be productive. That ‘anyone’ would be Tony Pollard, rookie running back out of Memphis who Dallas used a fourth-round pick on and has been receiving praise so far out of training camp. Pollard is not the same caliber back as Elliot, and never will be, however he may very well provide a better value for the Cowboy’s organization moving forward.
Running back is a brutal position. These guys come out every week and get tackled more than anyone else on the field. The brutality of the position is why so many running backs seek long term deals with guaranteed money, but the problem is that teams do not always value running backs enough to grant them massive extensions. Unlike all other positions, running backs are in their prime right out of college, and can have an immediate impact. By the time their rookie contract is up, they are likely on the wrong side of 25 and looking for a big deal. Teams will often let their running back walk and look to the draft for their younger, more affordable replacement, simply because they value paying other positions over running backs.
The Cowboys though are in a tough situation. The team is young and talented, with a promising future, but with that comes many players entering their prime looking for big contracts. Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper will likely be paid this year, and both guys will almost certainly be a top-five highest paid player at their relative position. Then the Cowboys have some of their key defensive players such as Byron Jones and Jaylon Smith edging towards new deals as well. These four players massively contribute to the Cowboys success on both sides of the ball and are all arguably play more important positions than running back. Dallas should make the right call and prioritize those four players over their star back. That is not even to mention players like Randall Cobb, La’el Collins and Robert Quinn, who have near-ending contracts as well. These three are much less likely to be re-signed but could potentially have a significant impact should the Cowboys bring them back. If Dallas resigns Zeke, they will simply be unable to afford the contracts of their other stars.
The Cowboys have an amazing opportunity to avoid entering a lucrative running back contract and receive some serious capital in return if they trade Ezekiel Elliot. There will certainly be a market for the two-time rushing leader (likely from a team with a young quarterback and significant cap space), and it is no stretch to assume they could receive a first-round pick in return. It is certainly not an easy decision for Dallas, as Elliot is a fan-favorite and the face of the franchise, however the opportunity to receive a first-round pick for their running back (who do not forget, is a complete headache off the field) and avoid trapping themselves in a ridiculous contract is too good to pass up. The Cowboys are good. Even without Elliot, they can seriously compete this year, while also being very well setup for the future.
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