The Dallas Cowboys needed star running back Ezekiel Elliott back in the building prior to the first week of the regular season, and they have just achieved that goal. According to Ian Rapoport, Zeke just landed a massive contract extension for six years and $90 million that will make him the highest-paid running back in the league. This deal includes $50 million guaranteed and tops more than $100 million in total value. For historical sake, Zeke is the first member of the Dallas Cowboys to ever reach this plateau.
Elliott entered the offseason with the goal of topping the contract held by Los Angeles Rams star Todd Gurley and was able to achieve that goal after an offseason of intrigue. The Rams star signed a four-year, $57.5 million extension back in 2018 that landed him an average salary of $14.375 million, as well as $45 million guaranteed. With an average salary of $15 million per year, Zeke will rest assured that he is the top man at his position.
Unfortunately for both Zeke and the Cowboys, early negotiations did not initially lead to that end. Instead, Elliott was forced to depart for Cabo and kick off a holdout that lasted throughout training camp and into the preseason. He missed the flight to Oxnard, California, which created some speculation, and then proceeded to miss every bit of NFL action leading up to the regular season. With him absent, Dallas relied upon rookie Tony Pollard and the reliable veteran in Alfred Morris to lead the rushing attack.
However, team owner Jerry Jones never lost faith that his star running back would be back in the building for the season. Granted, there were moments in which he did admit that Zeke could potentially rejoin the team later in the year, but Jones fully expected him present for the "dog days of the season" and into the playoffs.
Entering the preseason, there were also lingering concerns about the negotiations being affected by some of Elliott's off-the-field incidents, but Jones and co. have constantly reiterated that the team stands by their running back and will continue to do so in the future. This massive deal is simply further evidence of that fact.
In his career, the former fourth-overall pick in 2016 has been nothing short of a workhorse for this Cowboys offense. As a three-year starter, Elliott has twice led the league in rushing yards (2016, 2018) and would likely have done so a third time if not for a six-game suspension in 2017. He still managed 983 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in this shortened season, all while averaging 4.1 yards-per-attempt.
When available for all 16 games, Zeke has been the engine of this Cowboys offense. As a rookie, the Ohio State product tallied 1,631 rushing yards, 363 receiving yards, and 16 total touchdowns. He also scored a jaw-dropping touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers to give his team a six-point lead with nine seconds remaining in regulation. The Cowboys only needed a field goal to achieve victory, but he put his own mark on the game.
While Elliott's touchdown numbers dropped in this third season as a pro, he still managed to produce in the highly competitive NFC East. He rushed for 1,434 yards and six scores while also posting a career-high 567 yards and another three touchdowns.
Now that the contract extension has been handled, the Cowboys can rest assured that Zeke will be in the building and available to lead this rushing attack. The hope is that he will build upon his impressive first three seasons and become someone that rivals former Cowboys great Emmitt Smith in terms of production and Super Bowl rings.