Cowboys Rumors: Ezekiel Elliott to Report to DAL amid Desire for New Contract

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2019

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 27: Runningback Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys from the NFC Team on the sidelines during the NFL Pro Bowl Game at Camping World Stadium on January 27, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. The AFC defeated the NFC 26 to 7. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will report to the team's offseason training program Monday despite wanting a new contract.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Elliott will keep things "status quo" while attempting to negotiate a long-term extension.

Elliott, 23, will make $3.9 million next season, the final year of his rookie contract. The Cowboys have until May 2 to exercise their fifth-year option on his rookie contract, which will pay him the average of the 10 highest running back salaries.

For that reason, the Cowboys have little incentive to extend Elliott, who has almost no leverage in negotiations. Elliott, given his status as arguably the NFL's best running back, will want to be the highest-paid player at his position. The Cowboys can pay him well below that number for at least the next three years, assuming they would franchise him in 2021.

"We've got it budgeted that we're going to pay Zeke a significant contract at some point," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones told reporters at the combine. "He's right at the top of the best in the business, if not the best. And we certainly saw what Gurley got paid and we know that's probably where it starts, and we'll go from there."

The Cowboys previously handed DeMarcus Lawrence a five-year, $105 million contract this offseason. However, it's worth noting the team waited until after franchising Lawrence a second time before giving him the long-term contract.

There could be some logic in giving Elliott a long-term deal now. If the Cowboys get the high-guarantee years out of the way while Elliott is still young, they'll have him on non-guaranteed base salaries for the latter part of the contract.

The Los Angeles Rams could get out of Gurley's contract after the 2020 season when he's just 27 years old. Even if they keep Gurley around, his age-28 and age-29 seasons are reasonably priced and carry no commitment from a team perspective.

The Cowboys could look at that as a model to make Elliott happy while avoiding paying him guaranteed money into his late 20s. 

Of course, Dallas could also follow the Le'Veon Bell path of playing the franchise tag game before allowing their high-usage running back to hit free agency once a replacement is in place. 

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