Ezekiel Elliott continues his holdout from the Dallas Cowboys, seeking a new contract in hopes of being one of the highest-paid running backs in football and solidifying his future with the team that drafted him. The Cowboys don’t appear prepared to move on without Elliott (yet), but owner Jerry Jones does find himself in a “dilemma” when it comes to paying Elliott.
Jones had some interesting comments to CBS 11 Sports at Cowboys Training Camp in Oxnard, California on giving Elliott the long-term deal he’s seeking, ones that could be a precursor toward Elliott’s future with Dallas.
“The point there is, you don’t have to have a rushing champion to win a Super Bowl … Emmitt (NFL all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith) was the first one to do it,” Jones said. “That’s one of the dilemmas at running back is that the league knows that you can win Super Bowls and not have the Emmitt Smith back there or not have Zeke back there.”
The Cowboys did sign Alfred Morris to a one-year deal as insurance for Elliott in case the holdout extends deep into training camp. Morris spent two seasons with the Cowboys as Elliott’s backup in 2016 and 2017, averaging 4.3 yards per carry.
Jones has been in this situation before, when it came to paying a running back. Emmitt Smith led the NFL in rushing in 1991 and 1992, helping the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl championship since the 1977 season. Smith was making only $465,000 heading into the 1993 season and decided to hold out, seeking a deal that would compensate him for his production.
Smith held out the first two games of the season as the Cowboys started 0-2. Jones gave Smith a four-year, $13.6 million deal that made him the highest-paid running back at the time. Smith led the league in rushing in 1993 as the Cowboys finished 12-2 and won their second-straight Super Bowl.
Elliott is seeking to be the highest-paid running back in football, and he has an argument for it after his production in his first three seasons. Elliott has led the NFL in rushing in two of his three NFL seasons, while also leading the NFL in yards per game in all of his seasons. Elliott has 868 carries for 4,048 yards and 28 touchdowns in his career, averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
The Cowboys are 28-12 in the 40 games Elliott plays, winning two NFC East titles. There’s logic to pay Elliott, despite the Cowboys also seeking deals for franchise quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper.