The deal is done and Ezekiel Elliott will be a Dallas Cowboy not just for the foreseeable future but for the prime of his career. For the Cowboys, it keeps another piece of their young core in place with enough flexibility to still make future moves.
The third-year running back signed a six-year, $90 million contract extension with the Cowboys that was announced on Tuesday morning. The deal is crazy money, especially since the next highest-paid running backs in the NFL are the Los Angeles Rams' Todd Gurley (four years/$57.5 million) and the New York Jets' Le’Veon Bell (four years/$52.5 million). The numbers for Elliott, who ran for over $1,400 yards last year and six touchdowns, easily eclipses the numbers for other backfield stars while setting the standard for future running backs in the years to come.
For the rest of the league’s running backs, the standard is now set for a position that has been devalued in recent years.
Dallas emerges as the clear winner from this new deal, this even as the contract is the largest ever for a running back. The new deal ends Elliott’s training camp holdout.
Jason Fitzgerald, an NFL salary cap analyst who operates OverTheCap.com and consults with several teams around the league on their contracts and cap situations, thinks the market for future running backs seeking new contracts will be set by Elliott’s new deal.
“On the immediate side, I’d say Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara are the ones that benefit the most from the deal as those should be the next two [contracts] up after this season. The fact that Dallas certainly didn’t ‘shrink’ the market would lend more justification to the $13 million-plus market that exists for ‘elite’ backs in the NFL. Both should also have a chance to set new benchmarks,” Fitzgerald told FOX Business.
“Long term I think the jury is out. The few big deals that exist could bomb and if they do that will likely hurt a player like Saquon Barkley who only has one year in the NFL right now and is years away from being able to sign an extension.”
The deal for Elliott, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, rewrites the record books. But unlike most deals of this magnitude, the Cowboys aren’t exactly hamstrung by their splash of cash.
The deal adds on to Elliott’s current rookie contract, which runs through 2020. The Cowboys had more than $86 million in projected salary cap space heading into the next offseason, money that presumably will be used to retain quarterback Dak Prescott long-term as well as wide receiver Amari Cooper, who is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $13.9 million this season.
They also would likely want to keep cornerback Byron Jones whose rookie deal is up after this year and who will be looking for a significant pay raise.
“The team has plenty of space to sign Elliott, Prescott, and Cooper short term,” Fitzgerald said.
“The question is does it impact them long term and hurt them with re-upping [cornerback] Byron Jones? But ultimately one $15 million-a-year contract is not going to hurt their future outlook at all.”