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August 6 deadline shouldn’t matter to Ezekiel Elliott

If Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott holds out of training camp, the first significant date arrives in early August.

As noted by Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, failure to report by August 6 results in Elliott forfeiting a year of credit toward free agency.

Robinson notes that Elliott is aware of the deadline, which is good because sometimes neither the player nor his agent are aware of the consequences of a player under contract staying away beyond the start of the 30-day countdown to the start of the regular season. (We first became aware of the rule more than a decade ago, regarding a player who quickly ended his holdout after his agent read our article.)

But the deadline shouldn’t matter to Elliott. Due to his contract, he’s at least two seasons away from free agency. The availability of the franchise tag could put him at least three years from a path to the market.

A holdout (if there is one) would be about replacing his contract, not about becoming a free agent. And it’s about exerting leverage on the Cowboys via the threat that he’ll withhold services into a regular season that will feature coach Jason Garrett trying to keep his job an owner Jerry Jones trying to dial back the clock to gloryhole days (and, yes, they’ll pass you by).

Other players have held out beyond the 30-day window without concerns about losing a year of credit toward free agency. Most recently, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald held out twice beyond the 30-day deadline; as a result, he still has only three years of credit toward free agency. But he also has a contract that made him (for a day) the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.

In 2011, running back Chris Johnson held out beyond the 30-day deadline despite having more than a year left on his contract and less that four years of credit toward free agency. The year before that, cornerback Darrelle Revis did the same thing.

For a player on a four-year rookie deal entering the final year of the contract (like Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott), getting the year of credit matters. If Prescott were to hold out beyond August 6, the Cowboys would be able to keep him in 2020 without using the franchise tag. For a player on a five-year rookie deal with two years left, getting the year of credit takes a back seat to taking a stand and getting paid.