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Ezekiel Elliott gains nothing by sitting out the full season

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Contract talks between the Cowboys and their three big stars, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott, continue, but owner Jerry Jones is not worried and says they will get done.

Like Le’Veon Bell in 2018, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott wants a new contract. Like Bell in 2018, Elliott is threatening to skip the full season without one. Unlike Bell in 2018, Elliott would gain nothing from sitting out.

Josina Anderson of ESPN.com reports that Elliott won’t play without a new contract in 2019. And while there’s no reason to doubt the accuracy of what she was told, there are plenty of reasons to doubt the credibility of the threat.

Bell ultimately secured free agency in 2019 for a very specific reason. He entered 2018 under his second franchise tag. He believed initially that he needed to show up by the Tuesday after Week 10 to fulfill the second franchise tag. He eventually learned that, even if he didn’t play at all in 2018, the Steelers would be stuck with the rules of the third franchise tag in 2019. In lieu of offering Bell $25 million or more under the third franchise tag (or more than $14 million under the transition tag), the Steelers let Bell enter the market.

Elliott doesn’t have that same posture. His contract runs through 2020. If he skips a full season, his contract tolls by a year, pushing his $3.853 million salary from 2019 to 2020 and likewise nudging his $9.099 million salary for 2020 to 2021.

The better approach would be to show up before Week 10, get credit for the contract year, and then enter 2020 at a salary of $9.099 million.

Chances are it won’t come to that. The vow to not play without a new contract represents the same kind of huffing and puffing that the Cowboys have engaged in regarding their willingness to pay market value to a running back. Eventually, they’ll likely get a deal done before Elliott misses enough time to make the question of a potential full-year holdout relevant.