The Cowboys‘ Ezekiel Elliott is one of the best running backs in the league and it’s certainly reasonable that he wants to be compensated as such. As it stands, the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft will earn $3.85 million in base salary this season, and his $6.2 million average annual salary ranks 10th behind Jerick McKinnon, Leonard Fournette and Lamar Miller.
With training camp set to begin later this month, Elliott plans to hold out until he gets a new deal, reports Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.
Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson writes that while Elliott hasn’t made a decision on whether to skip Cowboys camp … “yet,” the running back “definitely wants an extension in the works.” There’s more: “If Cowboys aren’t proactive about a deal, I think this could go sideways fast. It hasn’t yet. This will be an important week.”
At issue is what’s always at issue when talking about running backs: No matter how good they may be, they play the most fungible position in the NFL. For every Le’Veon Bell who makes $12.1 million on the franchise tag there’s a James Conner pulling down $578,000 and being just as productive. Bell, who sat out the 2018 campaign, signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets this offseason, which was less than what the Steelers offered him last summer — and trails the contract the Rams gave Todd Gurley.
But again, it’s a familiar refrain; Gordon was one of the NFL’s best backs last season but he also plays a position that has been devalued. Gurley is currently the league’s highest paid running back but there are concerns that a knee injury may lessen his workload in the future. And we talked about Bell above. Gordon understands all this.
“It’s an issue with everybody else,” he said. “But I know my value. I know what I bring to this team, and I’m sticking with that. Todd [Gurley]’s paid, so Todd don’t care what anybody says right now — him or David Johnson — they can say what they want to say. They signed the dotted line. But unfortunately I haven’t yet, so I’ve got to take the heat for some of the stuff that they’re going through. But I’m not them, and like I said, I know my value.”
It’s worth noting that Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said in February that Elliott very much remained in the team’s plans.
“Well, I mean we’ve got it budgeted that we’re going to pay Zeke a significant contract at some point,” he said at the time. “He’s right there at the top with the best of the business, if not the best. We saw what Gurley got paid, and that’s probably where it starts, and we’ll go from there.”
The Cowboys, who also have to pay Dak Prescott, Byron Jones and Jaylon Smith, did draft two running backs this spring, both on Day 3: Tony Pollard in the fourth round and Mike Weber in the seventh round. Darius Jackson and his six career carries in three seasons is also on the depth chart, which reinforces the notion that the Cowboys intend to pay Elliott. When and how much is yet to be determined but it’s hard to imagine that he’ll settle for anything less than the $14.4 million Gurley makes per season on the four-year, $57 million contract he signed last summer.