Sifting Through The Zeke Rumors

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FRISCO, Texas – It was always a bit optimistic to hope for a completely quiet Cowboys offseason.

The news of the last few days has emphasized that, and for a variety of reasons. Roughly a week after the NFL announced it wouldn't be disciplining Ezekiel Elliott for an altercation with a Las Vegas security guard back in May, the security guard decided to file charges.

Elliott's legal team responded to the charges swiftly, referring to him as a "target of extortion."

Of course, that's just the beginning of Elliott's stint in the news this week. A report surfaced Monday afternoon that the All-Pro running back was considering a holdout as the Cowboys prepare to report to training camp next week. That report led to another report from Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, indicating that the situation wasn't dire, but that this upcoming week before training camp would be crucial in determining Elliott's course of action.

If Elliott were in fact to hold out, the logic is fairly obvious. Even as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Elliott has easily outplayed his rookie contract. He has led the league in rushing twice in three years, earning All-Pro honors twice and going to two Pro Bowls. Despite that, he is currently 10th among NFL running backs in both contract and average salary, trailing the likes of Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, David Johnson and Jerick McKinnon.

With more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage and 34 touchdowns in three seasons, there's no denying Elliott's importance to the Cowboys' offense – as team chief operating officer Stephen Jones admitted himself.

"He's the straw, if you will, that stirs our drink. He's a key part of what we're about," Jones said back in May.

Despite that, Elliott has admittedly remained in the background during this offseason full of contract talk. That's largely because the 23-year-old still has two years remaining on his rookie deal, while Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper are set to hit free agency after this season, making them larger priorities at this moment.

Obviously, if arguably their most talented player were to refrain from reporting to training camp, the Cowboys' priorities could change in a hurry. The front office drafted two running backs – Tony Pollard and Mike Weber – this past spring, but it seems unlikely those two would be able to replace Elliott's production on their own.

In fact, if Elliott were to no-show, the Cowboys would have just 61 NFL carries on their current roster – and 55 of those belong to fullback Jamize Olawale. If the Cowboys did not have Elliott, for whatever reason, it seems likely they'd need to address the position somehow moving forward.

Obviously, that's premature. The only thing that seems concrete is that Elliott wants to talk about his contract. Everything else remains to be seen.

Suffice to say, it all combines to add plenty of intrigue to the Cowboys' preparations to leave for Oxnard, Calif., next Thursday.

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