FRISCO, Texas – At long last, the standoff is over.
The Cowboys signed a contract extension with Ezekiel Elliott, bringing a 40-day holdout to a close just in time for the start of the regular season.
By the end of a lengthy conversation, the two sides have agreed to terms on a six-year, $90 million extension with $50 million of that guaranteed – a contract that figures to keep Elliott in a Cowboys uniform for the rest of his NFL career.
That’s quite a resolution to a storyline that has been wrought with uncertainty from the very beginning. A lifetime ago, back in mid-July, there were conflicting reports about whether Elliott would even hold out. Heading into his fourth NFL season, he was widely-regarded as one of the league’s best running backs – not to mention one of its most underpaid.
On July 25, the contract dispute crystalized, as Elliott missed the Cowboys’ outbound flight to Oxnard, Calif., for training camp. He did not report at the veterans’ deadline the next day, and the standoff was on.
“He is late,” Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said at the time. “We have officially reported, so he’s a non-report, officially.”
Elliott’s non-report extended all the way through the month of August, bringing plenty of twists and turns with it. The Cowboys and Elliott’s representatives went back and forth through the media throughout training camp, whether it was the report that the Cowboys offered Elliott “top two” money, or Elliott’s reaction to Jones’ famous “Zeke Who?” joke.
Finally, four days before Sunday’s season opener against the New York Giants, it all appears to be settled. Elliott returned to the Dallas area from his offseason base in Cabo on Tuesday morning, conversations went down late Tuesday night and a deal was agreed to by early Wednesday morning.
Now, the questions turns to: how quickly can he be ready?
By all indications, it was a big sticking point for the Cowboys to get their star running back to The Star by Wednesday, when they would begin preparations in earnest for Sunday’s game against the Giants.
Predictably, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett wasn’t keen to focus on Elliott during his Monday press conference. But he did allow that, when Elliott shows up, he’s unlikely to need a ton of time to get integrated into the offense.
“Zeke is as capable as anybody I know,” Garrett said. “He’s an experienced player, he’s been a really good player for us, he knows our system of football. I don’t think they’ll be a lot of learning there. He’s a smart guy, an instinctive guy. But again, that’s a hypothetical”
It isn’t a hypothetical anymore. Elliott has re-upped to become the Cowboys’ running back for 2019 – and for quite a few years after that.