Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott Considering Holdout?

Todd Gurley‘s record-setting running back deal affected Le’Veon Bell‘s decision-making in Pittsburgh this year, and it may play a role in how Ezekiel Elliott proceeds in 2019.

The Cowboys’ All-Pro running back has one year remaining on his contract, but with the team having an easy fifth-year option decision coming, Elliott may be in a tough spot. Dallas has a host of extension-eligible players, five of whom — DeMarcus Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones and Jaylon Smith— either a franchise tag candidate or entering a contract year. Elliott having two years of team control left may move him to the back of the re-up queue, despite Dallas brass’ goal of signing him long-term.

An Elliott holdout will be a risk, sources told Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the longer this drags on this offseason. With the Cowboys having no incentive to pay Elliott now, there may be more noise on this front as the offseason unfolds.

While Gurley received his extension with two years remaining on his contract, Elliott is also in the same position Aaron Donald was in 2017. Donald held out and missed the Rams’ first two games en route to defensive player of the year acclaim.

Elliott, 23, is due $3.58MM in 2019. His fifth-year option would come in north of $10MM in 2020. But Gurley’s four-year, $57.5MM deal altered the market. With Elliott winning rushing titles in both of the seasons in which he was a full Cowboys participant, the leverage he will have is removing himself from an offense dependent on his talents.

The Cowboys stand to hold more than $54MM in cap space and have taken care of three Elliott blockers, the most recent coming with Zack Martin‘s guard-record contract in 2018. Considering Elliott’s importance to the team, usage rate and the non-Gurley running backs’ position within the NFL salary landscape, a holdout would certainly make sense to see if the Cowboys would buckle and pay him this year rather than in 2020.

A Lawrence holdout also may be on the horizon, per Hill. Although, this could be expected given that the Cowboys may franchise him again. Lawrence signed his tender immediately last year and attended Cowboys offseason workouts, however.

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Cowboys’ Jerry Jones On Elliott, Linehan

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is determined to hammer out new deals with running back Ezekiel Elliott, quarterback Dak Prescott, edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence, and cornerback Byron Jones. However, he’s stopping short of any guarantees on those fronts. 

I want him in the short-term and the long-term,” Jones said of Prescott in a radio interview (Twitter link via Jon Machota of the Dallas News).

He expressed the same sentiment about Elliott, Lawrence, and Jones while tempering expectations.

Now, getting [those contracts done]…hell, I want a bigger boat,” said Jones.

This was an up-and-down year for Prescott, but the Cowboys seem committed to moving forward with the 25-year-old (26 in July). As it stands, they have the former fifth-round pick under contract for an $816K cap figure through 2019, which should work to the team’s advantage – given his relative lack of earnings to date, Prescott may take the security of a below-market long-term deal over the gamble of free agency next year.

New deals for Elliott and Lawrence will be expensive propositions, but the Cowboys are planning to devote a big chunk of their $54MM+ in cap space towards keeping the band together.

Later in the interview, Jones declined to give offensive coordinator Scott Linehan a vote of confidence.

This is the time when these things are thought about,” Jones said when pressed on Linehan’s future (Twitter link). “This is the time when you may see an opportunity next week that you didn’t know existed next week, in the area of personnel or the area of coaching.”

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Extra Points: Ravens, Cowboys, Rams, Bills, Falcons

We’ve been hearing mixed things about John Harbaugh for a while now. The Ravens announced they hope to keep the coach longterm with an extension, but rumors have continued to swirl that Harbaugh isn’t willing to commit to Baltimore and that he may want to explore his options elsewhere. Numerous teams have been reported to be interested in trading for the coach, including the Broncos and Dolphins.

We have a new update on Harbaugh today, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports the Ravens have “yet to have any dialogue” with Harbaugh about a new contract. La Canfora writes that the “situation is being watched closely” by other front offices, and that several teams still have hopes of trading for him after the year. If the Ravens have a quick playoff exit, it could increase the chances that the two sides part ways this offseason. It’ll be one of the biggest stories to monitor the next few weeks, and we should know a lot more after the team’s game against the Chargers tomorrow.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Cowboys have a bunch of young players they’ll need to pay soon, and Ezekiel Elliott would like to be first in line. The third year running back has one more year left on his deal after this season plus his 2020 fifth-year team option, but he’d like to be extended this offseason, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). While Rapsheet notes that it “makes sense given his workload”, it’s unclear at what price the team values him. We heard back in November that the team might not be in any rush to extend Elliott, so it will be very interesting to see what the team does here.
  • By gaining more than 1,200 rushing yards, Todd Gurley got a $1MM bonus this season, Rapoport tweets. It brings the total value of Gurley’s extension with the Rams to four years and $58.5MM. Gurley got off to a red hot start to the year and was on pace to break the single season touchdowns record for a while, and while he cooled off a little bit during the second half of the season, he still had another dominant year. He’s been dealing with some knee soreness recently, but should be a full go for the Rams’ playoff run.
  • We also got details on Matt Barkley‘s recent extension with the Bills, that Mike Rodak of ESPN tweeted out. Barkley’s two year deal will pay him $1.25MM in 2019 and $1.5MM in 2020. Interestingly, Rodak notes that the team gave Barkley a $600K signing bonus. Getting that large of an amount of guaranteed money would suggest he has a significant leg up on Derek Anderson in the race to be Josh Allen‘s backup next year. Buffalo signed Anderson to a one year deal earlier this week. The deal also includes active roster and playing time bonuses for Barkley, who showed very well in his one spot start this season.
  • Locking defensive tackle Grady Jarrett up longterm is a priority for the Falcons this offseason, according to GM Thomas Dimitroff, per Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com. “We would like to have Grady back for many years to come”, Dimitroff said. Jarrett was one of the few bright spots on a Falcons defense that regressed mightily this season, and he received elite grades from Pro Football Focus. Jarrett, a fifth round pick in 2015, is set to be a free agent this offseason and should be in for a huge payday.

Extra Points: Cowboys, Elliott, Panthers, Funchess, Jets, Offensive Line

The Cowboys are riding high off their recent three game winning streak, but they’ll have to get serious soon. While head coach Jason Garret’s future with the team has been discussed endlessly, they have some personnel decisions to make that have flown mostly under the radar. The Cowboys have a bunch of young players, and will need to make some tough decisions soon, writes Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.

The Cowboys have a bunch of players who will need to either be extended or let go in the near future, including Dak Prescott, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Ezekiel Elliott. All three will be looking for a ton of guaranteed money, and they might not be able to keep everybody. While owner Jerry Jones has said repeatedly the team plans on extending Prescott, Florio notes that Jones hasn’t “said much if anything about Elliott getting a new deal.” Florio writes that “it’s possible that the Cowboys won’t ever make a major financial commitment to Elliott”, and points to how they handled the DeMarco Murray situation a few years ago as evidence they might not value running backs that highly. It hasn’t been talked about much, but it’s a very interesting perspective and it definitely seems possible Elliott doesn’t get locked up longterm in Dallas.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Panthers receiver Devin Funchess is set to be a free agent after this season, and it’s up in the air about what type of contract he might land. Former NFL agent and current CBS Sports Analyst Joel Corry thinks Funchess will get somewhere between what Marqise Lee and Stefon Diggs got on the open market, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic. Corry thinks Funchess is a “1.5” type of receiver, better than a number two receiver, but not quite good enough to be a top option. Funchess’ free agency will be one of the most interesting in a pretty weak free agent class.
  • The Jets’ offensive line could end up looking a lot different next year. In order to free up salary cap space, it’s possible the Jets cut all three of Kelvin Beachum, Spencer Long and Brian Winters, according to Matt Stypulkoski of NJ.com. The Jets already have a lot of salary cap space, but Stypulkoski thinks all three aren’t worth their salaries next year, and that the Jets will be looking to totally revamp their offensive line and better set up Sam Darnold for the future.
  • In case you missed it, the Jets are discussing an extension with receiver Quincy Enunwa.

Zeke Officially Placed Back On Active Roster

After a long fight with the NFL that led to an eventual suspension being taken in Week 9, Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott is finally set to return to game action on Sunday after being officially placed on the team’s 53-man roster this afternoon, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Ezekiel Elliott (vertical)

Elliott, 22, has been one of the premier runners in football since he took the league by storm during his rookie campaign in 2016. However, his sophomore season has proved to be more tumultuous as the former Ohio State Buckeye was suspended by the league for six games after he was charged with assault over the summer. Some notable pushback by Elliott and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones delayed his suspension to the middle of the season, with Elliott remaining separated from the team for six games from Weeks 9 through 15.

Dallas has won their last three contests after dropping their first three without their featured back. This most recent winning streak has allowed the Cowboys to go into a playoff “elimination” game vs. the Seahawks this weekend. While backups Alfred Morris and Rod Smith were competent in relief, the Dallas offense is expected to take a notable step up with Elliott in the backfield.

In his eight games this season, Elliott has rushed for 783 yards on 191 carries, including seven touchdowns. With his suspension complete, Dallas certainly stands a much better chance of running the table and sneaking their way into the final NFC Wild Card spot.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Cowboys, Lions, Cards, Broncos

By accepting his suspension and serving it this season, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will actually save money, as David Moore of the Dallas Morning News notes (Twitter links). Elliott’s base salary increases to roughly $2.7MM in 2018, meaning a six-game ban would have cost him ~$400K more had it been pushed to next year. Instead, he’ll lose about $560K this season, and his guarantees in the 2018-19 campaigns have been voided. Elliott’s signing bonus, however, is not at risk due to his suspension.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Because the collective bargaining agreement allows for player contract language which voids salary guarantees under certain provisions, teams could hypothetically insert clauses which nullify guarantees if a player does not stand for the national anthem, as Joel Corry of CBSSports.com opines. Such a provision would be similar to the so-called Carl Pickens Rule, named after the Bengals wideout who criticized management at the turn of the century. Loyalty clauses can now restrict such denunciations with the threat of lost salary, and a similar rule could speculatively have a similar effect on national anthem protests. Of course, the NFLPA (and players themselves) would likely fight such a stipulation.
  • Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter declined to comment on his interest in the University of Tennessee’s vacant head coaching position, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes. Cooter played and coached for the Volunteers before heading to the NFL. Under Cooter’s leadership, Detroit finished 15th in offensive DVOA in 2016, but has slipped to 21st this season. Tennessee has already expressed interest in another ex-Vol, Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers.
  • Given the injury to quarterback Drew Stanton, the Cardinals could opt to start Blaine Gabbert under center on Sunday, and the club is reportedly “intrigued” by the former first-round pick, reports Mike Jurecki of 98.7 FM (Twitter link), who adds Arizona believes Gabbert could be more than a bridge option for the club. While Gabbert does come with a high draft pedigree, he’s shown nothing in the NFL during his six-year career. Since entering the league in 2011, Gabbert ranks dead last in quarterback rating, touchdown percentage, and adjusted net yards per pass attempt. Both Gabbert and Stanton are scheduled to become free agents next spring, while starter Carson Palmer could theoretically hang up his cleats after flirting with retirement earlier this year.
  • The Broncos worked out free agent punter Jeff Locke on Thursday, but it doesn’t sound as though Denver is interested in signing the veteran specialist, per Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. Denver is facing a left-footed punter in the Bengals’ Kevin Huber on Sunday, so auditioning Locke gave returner Jordan Taylor a chance to catch punts from a lefty. Locke signed a relatively large (for a punter) deal with the Colts this offseason, but has since been cut by both Indianapolis and Detroit.

Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott Withdraws Appeal

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is withdrawing his appeal, agents Rocky Arceneaux and Frank Salzano tell Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The NFLPA also announced that it has withdrawn its lawsuit against the league. Elliott will serve his full six-game suspension. He will miss the next five games and return in Week 16 against the Seahawks. Ezekiel Elliott (vertical)

In consultation with the NFLPA and his lawyers, and after careful deliberation and review of the recent Second Circuit decisions, Mr. Elliott has decided to forego any further appeals and will serve the remaining suspension,” the statement reads. “This decision arises from a practical assessment of the current legal landscape. Mr. Elliott’s desire for closure in this matter is in his best interest, as well as the best interests of his teammates, family, and friends.

This decision is in no way an admission of any wrongdoing, and Mr. Elliott is pleased that the legal fight mounted by he and his team resulted in disclosing many hidden truths regarding this matter as well as publicly exposing the NFL’s mismanagement of its disciplinary process. Mr. Elliott will maximize this time away from the game and come back even stronger both on and off the field. He intends to release a final personal statement in the upcoming weeks and until then we have no further comment.”

Elliott will release a statement at some point that will explain his decision further, Rapoport tweets. Meanwhile, the NFLPA may still continue the battle in court.

On Nov. 9, the Second Circuit ruled to reinstate Elliott’s ban, sidelining him for Dallas’ game against the Falcons. Initially, an expedited appeal in front of the Second Circuit court was scheduled for December 1st. Instead, Elliott is accepting the suspension, which most likely would have had to have been served at some point. By taking the hit now, Elliott can ensure that he will be eligible for this year’s playoffs, assuming the Cowboys get there.

The running back will miss games against the Eagles, Chargers, Redskins, Giants, and Raiders before returning.

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NFC Notes: R. Wilson, Gruden, Eli, Bennett

Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, citing a source close to the situation, reports that the Seahawks violated the league’s concussion protocol by allowing quarterback Russell Wilson to reenter Thursday night’s game against Arizona without going to the locker room and being cleared by a team doctor and an independent physician. However, a league spokesman told ESPN that the NFL has not conducted any interviews yet, so it has not reached any conclusions. The NFL and NFLPA will jointly review the situation over the coming weeks.

If Seattle is determined to have violated the protocol, it could be fined up to $150K.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • Every year, it seems, we hear rumors concerning Jon Gruden‘s potential return to the sidelines as a head coach. With his former team, the Buccaneers, sputtering in 2017, and with Dirk Koetter looking less likely to return in 2018, Gruden-to-Tampa Bay rumors will only continue to pick up steam, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes. Gruden has mended his relationship with Bucs ownership and still lives about 10 minutes from the team facility, and a source close to him indicated it is possible that Gruden returns to the Bucs.
  • The Giants have no plans to bench Eli Manning, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes. Although their long-time signal-caller does not figure to be a part of any long-term rebuild, Rapoport says it would take a catastrophe for Big Blue to sit Manning down this season.
  • The Packers released Martellus Bennett with a Failure to Disclose a Physical Condition designation, alleging that Bennett failed to tell the team that he had a torn rotator cuff before he signed with the team this offseason. Bennett, of course, refutes that notion, but Green Bay intends to recoup the signing bonus it paid to Bennett, per Rapoport. Whether the Packers will seek the full $6.3MM bonus or the $4.2MM prorated portion is unclear, but they have over a month in which to file their grievance.
  • Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott, whose suspension was reinstated earlier this week, is leaving the country to clear his head and train in an undisclosed location, per Rapoport (via Twitter).

Latest On Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott

The latest ruling in the Ezekiel Elliott saga will put his six-game suspension into motion starting with this Sunday’s game against the Falcons. He still has options to fight the ban, but it will take a while before he can realistically get another legal intervention. Elliott’s expedited appeal in front of the Second Circuit court is scheduled for December 1st, as Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweetsEzekiel Elliott (vertical)

The Cowboys have four games between now and 12/1, so Elliott will almost certainly miss games against the Falcons, Eagles, Chargers, and Redskins. After that, Elliott will have to assess whether to fight the league on the remaining two games. In theory, it seems possible that Elliott could stave off the final two games of his scheduled suspension only to have the ban reinstated in the postseason (assuming the Cowboys qualify).

The Cowboys are 5-3 heading into Sunday’s game with Atlanta. They have serious ground to make up in order to catch the 8-1 Eagles for the NFC East crown and they’ll have to do it without their best offensive weapon – at least for the next month.

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Ezekiel Elliott’s Suspension Is Back On

The latest legal volley in the Ezekiel Elliott case has gone in the NFL’s favor. The Second Circuit has ruled in favor of the Cowboys’ running back. His six-game suspension goes into effect immediately, meaning that he will not be eligible to return until Dec. 24 against the Seahawks unless there is another ruling to shift things back in his favor. Ezekiel Elliott (vertical)

The “good news” for Elliott is that his appeal will be heard on an expedited basis. It’s possible that he will be able to get another ruling from the courts before the six-game suspension ends.

Today’s hearing lasted only 30 minutes and ended without a ruling right away. Minutes later, however, the judging panel came back with a verdict to deny Elliott’s request for an injunction.

While Elliott is out, the Cowboys are expected to lean on Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, and Darren McFadden to keep the running game moving. Those three cannot offer the same explosiveness as Elliott, but it’s as good of a Plan B as anyone could have in the NFL.

Elliott, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 draft, has 783 yards and seven touchdowns off of 191 carries this season (4.1 yards per carry). He also has 19 catches for 210 yards and two scores.

Assuming the ban holds up, Elliott will miss games against the Falcons, Eagles, Chargers, Redskins, Giants, and Raiders.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.