Ezekiel Elliott

Latest On Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott

While extensions for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper remain the priority in Dallas, the Cowboys and running back Ezekiel Elliott are “on the same page” regarding a new deal, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link), who adds Elliott has opened discussions with the Cowboys on a contract that would — in all likelihood — make him the league’s highest-paid running back.

Elliot’s contract negotiations are on the back-burner in Dallas, and that’s not completely unexpected. In addition to Prescott and Cooper, cornerback Byron Jones and offensive lineman La’el Collins are also scheduled to reach unrestricted free agency next spring. The Cowboys only have one franchise tag to deploy, so signing their impressive crop of 2020 free agents could prove difficult, although the club is projected to have the third-most cap space ($75MM) in the NFL next spring.

After his fifth-year option was exercised last month, Elliott is under contract for the 2020 campaign at a price of $9.099MM. So far, no other member of the 2016 draft class has signed an extension. But again, that’s not out of the norm, as 2016 draftees only became eligible for new deals when the 2018 regular season concluded.

If the 23-year-old Elliott is to become the NFL’s highest-paid running back, he’ll have to surpass the four-year, $57.5MM contract the Rams’ Todd Gurley signed last summer. That deal contained nearly $22MM in fully guaranteed money, and is worth $1.25MM more per year than Le’Veon Bell‘s deal, which ranks second among backs.

The Cowboys haven’t been shy about running Elliott into the ground during his first three years with the team. He led the league in carries in both 2016 and 2018, and probably would have done so in 2017 had he not missed six games via suspension. Las season, Elliott posted 1,434 yards and six touchdowns on the ground while adding 77 receptions, 567 yards, and three scores in the passing game. Of course, Elliott ran behind one of the NFL’s better offensive lines, and only ranked 18th in Football Outsiders’ success rate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Notes: Elliott, Frederick, Prescott

Travis Frederick is tentatively on track to return to the Cowboys’ starting lineup after missing the 2018 season due to an illness discovered late last summer. The perennial Pro Bowl center has been present for Cowboys workouts thus far this offseason, but Guillain-Barré Syndrome and offseason shoulder surgery were not the only medical issues the seventh-year veteran has dealt with recently. He also had a procedure done to address a hernia issue, Calvin Watkins of The Athletic notes (subscription required). This was not as serious as a sports hernia, though, so it should not be too much of an impediment to a Frederick return. While Frederick has returned to partial work with his teammates this year, Watkins notes the Cowboys do not expect him to participate fully until training camp. In the event Frederick cannot recover in time, 2018 starter Joe Looney remains an insurance policy. Third-round rookie Connor McGovern has also received center time.

Here is the latest out of Dallas:

  • Ezekiel Elliott was involved in an incident with a security guard in Las Vegas over the weekend. Las Vegas police officers observed the Cowboys running back push a security staffer to the ground at approximately 3 a.m. Sunday, Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News tweets. Officers then placed Elliott in handcuffs, but the victim did not press charges, Hairopoulos adds (via Twitter). Elliott was released without being arrested. The incident will not play into the Cowboys’ extension discussions, whenever they begin, executive VP Stephen Jones said (via Todd Archer of ESPN.com, on Twitter). The team is gathering information.
  • Despite Jaylon Smith being mentioned as a player the Cowboys would like to lock up long-term, no extension discussions between the Cowboys and the fourth-year linebacker have begun, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. Unlike Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones, Smith can be controlled via RFA tender in 2020. The Cowboys would be expected to place a second-round tender on the linebacker, Hill adds. Smith’s stay on the NFI list as a rookie created this path to restricted free agency, rather than unrestricted free agency, after four seasons.
  • Stephen Jones brought up the prospect of some of his team’s extension candidates taking less money because of the endorsement opportunities that come with playing for the Cowboys. But Watkins adds Prescott is not expected to do a team-friendly deal. “It’s not their job to manage the cap; I understand that,” Jones said. “But it is my job and Jerry’s job, so they will understand why we’re negotiating hard to make the very best deal we can, because the money, if we can talk them into not maxing out – doing well, but not maxed – then that allows us to have other good football players around them.” Watkins estimates Prescott soon signing the richest contract in Cowboys history, projecting a deal worth between $120-$130MM — which would make it a likely four-year pact — containing north of $70MM in guarantees. This jibes with what we’ve heard about Prescott’s potential price.

East Rumors: Ansah, Bills, Scherff, Cowboys

The Bills do not appear ready to concede they are losing the Ziggy Ansah race. It is unclear what terms have been exchanged between Ansah and the teams pursuing him, but Brandon Beane does not believe the Seahawks are the favorites to land the defensive end.

We’re still in talks with him and his agent,” Beane said during an interview with 1270 The Fan (via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, on Twitter). “Everything has been very good. All I’ll say about reports (regarding Seattle is emerging as favorite) is I don’t buy into that garbage, especially when I consider where some of the sourcing comes from.”

While the Seahawks have a more immediate need for edge rushers, the Bills recently declined perpetual trade candidate Shaq Lawson‘s fifth-year option and have Jerry Hughes in a contract year. Ansah visited the Bills in March, but the rehabbing lineman was not expected to sign until at least April. It appears the finish line is near for the soon-to-be 30-year-old sack artist’s decision.

Here is the latest news coming out of the Eastern divisions:

  • A torn pectoral muscle ended Brandon Scherff‘s fourth season, but there do not appear to be any complications in his return. Scherff expects to be ready for Redskins training camp. The fifth-year guard said (via Redskins.com) he was at around 90 percent when the Redskins started their offseason program late last month. In February, we heard Washington and its top guard began discussing an extension. But nothing has emerged on that front since. Scherff is entering his fifth-year option season.
  • Elsewhere in the NFC East, the Cowboys have a host of extension candidates. While Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper have emerged as the clubhouse leaders to be signed first, Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones included Ezekiel Elliott in that conversation. Jones called Elliott “every bit as important,” per Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter). It still looks like Elliott, under contract through 2020, will take a backseat to Cooper and Prescott for the time being. The Cowboys have a history of overworking running backs as their rookie deals wind down, as DeMarco Murray‘s final Dallas season showed, but Jones is saying the right things regarding the team wanting Elliott in the fold long-term.
  • Jones also mentioned Jaylon Smith, La’el Collins and Byron Jones as players the team would like to address. “I feel very good that we’re going to strategically work through getting guys like Dak and Amari and Zeke done. And I think we can still do others,” Jones said (via Machota, on Twitter). Each is going into a contract year, with Collins having already signed two NFL deals despite entering the league at the same time as Cooper and Jones. But it will be difficult for the Cowboys to retain all three members of this section of their extension queue, given how much Prescott, Cooper and Elliott will cost.
  • The Bills reshuffled their scouting department recently. Former Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey, in his fourth year in Buffalo, is now a senior national scout with the Bills. Buffalo also hired A.J. Highsmith and Mike Szabo as area scouts. A.J. Highsmith, a 49ers staffer over the past five years, is the son of Browns executive Alonzo Highsmith. The Bills also announced Asil Mulbah received a promotion, becoming a pro scout, and that R.J. Webb is now on board as a scouting assistant.

NFC Notes: Wagner, Newton, Zeke

We learned yesterday that the Seahawks and linebacker Bobby Wagner may not have held serious discussions regarding a new contract just yet, and we speculated that if Wagner pushes for a top-of-the-market deal (i.e. $17MM per season), he may be playing elsewhere in 2020. And as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweets, Wagner will indeed be looking to meet or exceed C.J. Mosley‘s new contract with the Jets, and he will not be taking a hometown discount. If that’s the case, it will be difficult for Seattle to retain him.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • Good news for Panthers fans. Per David Newton of ESPN.com, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton says his rehab from shoulder surgery is going “unbelievable,” and he hopes to be throwing before training camp. Newton, who turns 30 on Saturday, still doesn’t have a timetable for when he’ll be cleared, but everything is trending upwards so far.
  • The Cowboys may be preparing for life after Ezekiel Elliott, but Albert Breer of SI.com believes it would be a mistake for Dallas to move on anytime soon. He notes that the Cowboys are built to rely on Elliott, and if they ink him to a big-money deal now, they could spare themselves lengthy and potentially contentious negotiations, and they could still cut ties later on in the contract — once the guaranteed money is gone — if Elliott’s abilities start to fade.
  • The Packers claimed wide receiver Jawill Davis off waivers from the Giants earlier today, and Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that Davis will compete for a return specialist role. Davis appeared in seven games for Big Blue last season, returning 12 punts and seven kickoffs. He also caught four passes for 40 yards.
  • We wrote earlier today that the Buccaneers may be preparing to cut Gerald McCoy.

Extra Points: Elliott, Jets, Titans, Suh, Texans

Let’s check out some notes from around the NFL as we wrap up the weekend:

  • Could the Cowboys be preparing for a future without Ezekiel Elliott? Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk thinks that could be the case, as the writer believes the team could be taking “the DeMarco Murray approach” of running their star back into the ground before moving on. Florio cites a recent quote from COO Stephen Jones, who compared fourth-round running back Tony Pollard to Saints star Alvin Kamara.
  • Sam Darnold and Trevor Siemian are slotted in atop the Jets quarterbacks depth chart, but there will be some competition behind the duo. As ESPN’s Rich Cimini writes, the organization is likely to only carry four quarterbacks to training camp, meaning one of Luke Falk, Davis Webb, or Brandon Silvers will likely be without a job. Cimini notes that head coach Adam Gase likes Falk’s potential, explaining why the Jets claimed him off waivers earlier this week.
  • Would the Titans consider bringing in veteran defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh? Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com says he has not “heard a lot of internal buzz about this.” Suh did visit with the Titans last offseason before he landed with the Rams, and Wyatt notes that the veteran enjoyed his visit with Tennessee. Plus, Suh has a relationship with Titans defensive-line coach Terrell Williams and lineman Cameron Wake, so perhaps a deal isn’t all that unrealistic.
  • Safety Jahleel Addae‘s one-year deal with the Texans is worth $1.105MM, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). The deal includes an $805K base salary, $150K signing bonus, and up to an $150K roster bonus. Addae, 29, was released by the Chargers just prior to the start of free agency after spending six years with the club.

Latest On Cowboys, Elliott, Prescott, Cooper

With the Cowboys having begun negotiations with both Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, they appear to be ahead of Ezekiel Elliott in the team’s extension hierarchy. Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones confirmed as much this week.

During an appearance on Pro Football Talk Live (via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram), Jones said the Cowboys would like to have Prescott and Cooper extended before the season because it is “the right thing to do.” However, no timeline exists for Elliott, despite his superior production compared to his aforementioned teammates.

He’s the straw, if you will, that stirs our drink. He’s a key part of what we’re about,” Jones said. “Certainly, he’s a priority in terms of ultimately getting him signed. But there hasn’t really been a timetable put on this.”

At this point, Elliott has no holdout plans, Hill adds. This was rumored to be a possibility going into Dallas’ offseason program. But it is somewhat safe to assume that stance could change, depending on how talks unfold — if they unfold — this offseason. Elliott’s fifth-year option has him under Cowboys control through 2020.

Jones said at the Combine that Todd Gurley‘s four-year, $57.5MM deal will likely be the starting point for Elliott. He reiterated that position this week. Gurley, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell changed the running back marketplace. After no running back was attached to an eight-figure-per-year salary a year ago, Gurley, Johnson and Bell now each make north of $13MM per year. That provides a better road map for Elliott. However, Gurley now faces uncertainty because of a knee injury and Johnson is coming off the worst season (from a per-touch standpoint).

Elliott has accumulated far more touches through three years (1,003) than either Gurley or Johnson, but mileage probably isn’t a concern yet regarding the 23-year-old back. But it’s not certain Zeke will have a new deal in place by Week 1. That would take this situation to a more interesting place, especially if both Prescott and Cooper are signed by then.

The Cowboys have been reported as being unlikely to enter Russell Wilson financial territory for Prescott, and while Cooper’s price point is not known, it would be a bit of a surprise if the inconsistent wideout eclipsed Antonio Brown‘s deal. But it’s clear the Cowboys want these talents taken care of early. They would follow DeMarcus Lawrence in being extended. Elliott, Byron Jones and Jaylon Smith remain as young Cowboys eligible for new deals, however.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys To Pick Up Ezekiel Elliott’s Fifth-Year Option

In one of the least dramatic decisions in the history of the fifth-year option, the Cowboys will exercise Ezekiel Elliott‘s. Stephen Jones confirmed Wednesday (via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, on Twitter) the team will pick up the Pro Bowl running back’s 2020 option.

Selected with the 2016 No. 4 overall pick, Elliott quickly became one of the league’s best backs. He has emerged as an impact player in Dallas, continuing the franchise’s storied running back history.

This option will mean a $9.09MM 2020 salary for the Ohio State product, though negotiations for a new contract in the meantime figure to begin fairly soon. However, the Cowboys and Elliott have not started extension talks, Todd Archer of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

Elliott reported for the start of the Cowboys’ offseason program this week, despite being viewed as a holdout risk. But now that he is extension-eligible, this situation is one to monitor this offseason. Both Todd Gurley and David Johnson signed extensions before the start of their fourth seasons, and Elliott — who joins them in having an All-Pro nod on his resume — will stand to want a similar contract.

Despite Gurley being named All-Pro last season, Elliott finished with a career-high 2,001 yards from scrimmage and needed only 15 games to get there. The Cowboys gave him 381 touches, far more than the 354 he amassed during the 2016 season in which he won the rushing title. He has already accumulated 1,003 touches — far more than Gurley or Johnson when they signed their second contracts — so this summer could be important in securing his landmark deal, before the Cowboys attempt to tack on another 350-plus touches to his odometer.

Dallas appears to be putting new deals for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper on the front-burner, however.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Clark, Cox, Rivers, Lions, XFL

In extending Russell Wilson, the Seahawks took care of their signature piece of offseason business on Tuesday. But more key contract negotiations loom, with Bobby Wagner entering a contract year and Frank Clark having yet to sign his franchise tender. It appears the trade talk surrounding Clark has not totally died down. This week has produced some chatter around the league about a Clark swap, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk tweets. This comes shortly after a report indicated the Seahawks rebuffed outside interest in Clark at the outset of free agency and would only trade the impact defensive end if they were overwhelmed by an offer. Clark has said he will not report to Seahawks training camp without a long-term deal, so this obviously qualifies as a situation worth monitoring.

Shifting first to another NFC team’s defensive line, here is the latest from around the American football universe:

  • Fletcher Cox confirmed (via Philly.com’s Les Bowen) he underwent an offseason surgery to repair a foot injury sustained during the Eagles‘ divisional-round loss in New Orleans. The procedure appears to have been done several weeks ago, and while Cox is out of a walking boot, the veteran defensive tackle looks set to miss Philadelphia’s offseason program. His goal is to return by training camp. Cox is coming off his best NFL season, which featured a career-high 10.5 sacks and his first appearance on the All-Pro first team.
  • Also in the NFC East: Ezekiel Elliott did show up for the first day of the Cowboys‘ offseason program, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. So far, so good on the prospects of the Cowboys avoiding a contract-related holdout with their star running back. An Elliott holdout has been rumored, but for now, the fourth-year back is working out with his teammates.
  • Conversely, Philip Rivers did not show up for Day 1 of the Chargers‘ offseason work, Eric Williams of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). The 16th-year quarterback is entering a contract year, but the Bolts view him as an obvious extension candidate. Though, it is not certain if re-up talks have begun. Nevertheless, this does not appear to be a contentious situation.
  • As the deadline for teams to wrap up pre-draft visits approaches, the Lions squeezed in a meeting with Clelin Ferrell, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes (via Twitter). Detroit’s biggest offseason investment went toward its defensive end corps, in Trey Flowers‘ deal, but the Lions have met with other edge prospects as well. Both Brian Burns and L.J. Collier visited the Lions this month. Like Burns, Ferrell grades as a first-round-level prospect.
  • Former Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will resurface in the XFL. The 67-year-old coach will become HC for the XFL’s New York franchise, Jay Glazer of The Athletic tweets. Gilbride has been a head coach twice in his four-decade coaching career, leading the Chargers for 22 games between the 1997-98 seasons and overseeing the Southern Connecticut State program from 1980-84. Gilbride’s most recent NFL role was a seven-year stint as Giants OC, which ended in 2013.

Cowboys Haven’t Talked Deals With Prescott, Cooper

While the Cowboys are reportedly at an “impasse” in negotiations with pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, the team apparently hasn’t even gotten that far with Dak Prescott nor Amari Cooper. Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram writes that the organization hasn’t started contract negotiations with the quarterback or wideout.

Both Prescott and Cooper are entering the final year of their contracts. As Hill notes, the two players are signed for 2019, and with their agents focused on their current free agent clients, there hasn’t been a particular rush to start negotiating. In fact, a source tells Hill that we may not seen either player signed to an extension until after the draft or during OTAs.

Either way, as Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com points out, it won’t be particularly easy to sign either player, especially when you consider the Cowboys’ current standoff with Lawrence. Prescott or Cooper could leverage the franchise tag, similar to what Lawrence is currently going through. If one of the two offensive players signs an extension, that would seemingly boost the leverage of their unsigned teammate. Florio notes that running back Ezekiel Elliott could also push for a new deal.

It’s clearly a slippery slope for the Cowboys, but vice president Stephen Jones made it clear that none of the hypothetical extensions are dependent on each other.

“Each negotiation is in its own place,” Jones said. “If we could get Dak done today, we would. If we could get Amari Cooper done today, we would. I wouldn’t necessarily say one has to come before the other. We’ll just see how each of those negotiations proceed.”

Following a midseason trade to Dallas, Cooper recaptured the potential he had shown during his first two years in the league. In nine starts, the wideout hauled in 53 receptions for 725 yards and six touchdowns. We heard earlier this week that the Cowboys were ready to discuss an extension with the receiver. Meanwhile, Prescott had another solid season in 2018, finishing with a career-high 3,885 passing yards to go along with 22 touchdowns vs. eight interceptions. We heard earlier this month that the team had met with the quarterback’s agent, but we can probably assume that no formal negotiations took place.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Saints, Giants, Eagles, Cowboys

The Saints have had a relatively quiet offseason ever since their season ended in devastating fashion in the NFC Championship game. That’s about to change though, as they have several big decisions to make in the coming days and weeks. Mark Ingram is set to be a free agent, and there’s been a lot of talk that the Saints might move on and choose to give Alvin Kamara more of a featured role. Ingram “wants nothing more than to strike a deal to stay in New Orleans,” writes Larry Holder of The Athletic. Holder also writes that head coach Sean Payton wants to keep him around. Holder points out that Ingram doesn’t have the typical wear and tear a 30-year-old running back usually has, because he’s usually split time in whatever backfield the Saints have put together throughout his career.

The Saints also lacked consistent options in the passing game beyond Michael Thomas last year, and could be looking to add a receiver. Sources told Holder that “Someone like Adam Humphries intrigues the Saints.” Holder thinks Humphries might get priced out of their range though, and that New Orleans might end up turning to the draft to add receiver help. Multiple sources also told Holder the Saints aren’t interested in adding Antonio Brown.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • There’s been a ton of discussion about the Giants’ quarterback situation, but not a lot has been written about Kyle Lauletta. Lauletta was the Giants’ highly-touted fourth round pick last year, but was relegated to third-string duties behind Manning and Alex Tanney for much of the season. The Giants re-signed Tanney earlier today, which could bode poorly for Lauletta. Lauletta also underwent knee surgery this offseason, sources told Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com. Dunleavy isn’t bullish on Lauletta’s future with the team, and writes that he’s already shown he isn’t “capable of challenging Manning.” Lauletta only attempted five passes this past year, completing zero and throwing an interception. With the Giants a definitely possibility to draft a quarterback high in this April’s draft, Lauletta could prove to be a one-and-done in the Big Apple.
  •  The Eagles extended guard Isaac Seumalo earlier today, and they might not be done locking up offensive linemen. The “expectation” is that Philly “will attempt to extend OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai this offseason”, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Vaitai was the Eagles’ fifth round pick in 2016, and has been a backup tackle for them ever since. In 2017, he filled in for Jason Peters at left tackle and started the entire second half of the season plus the playoffs. Peters is 37 now, and his status for 2019 is still unclear. It’s very possible that the Eagles view Vaitai as the successor to Peters on Carson Wentz‘s blindside.
  • “When the 2018 season ended there was an expectation that Sean Lee would not return to Dallas,” writes Calvin Watkins of The Athletic. But now things appear to be shifting in the direction of the veteran linebacker returning for one more season in a reduced role, Watkins notes. Lee wants to play again and is willing to accept less playing time, according to Watkins, and Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones sounded open to the idea of bringing him back. “When he has played, he has played really well. He’s had a big impact on our football team, not only what he’s doing on the field, but off the field with his leadership,” Jones said. In the same piece, Watkins also took a look at the looming contract negotiations between Dallas and Ezekiel Elliott. Watkins thinks that Elliott “will probably get at least $50 million guaranteed”, topping the $45MM guaranteed Todd Gurley received from the Rams.