Cowboys expect Ezekiel Elliott to come back in shape . . . if he comes back

Charean Williams
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

If Ezekiel Elliott returns to the Cowboys before the start of the season, owner Jerry Jones expects the running back to be ready to go. If Elliott doesn’t return by the start of the season, Jones is OK with what the Cowboys have at the position behind the star running back.

When asked if he was concerned the Cowboys weren’t making significant progress on a new deal for Elliott, Jones, via the team website, said, “No, not really. Not at all.”

The Cowboys began training camp without Elliott, and they will finish the California portion of their training camp without Elliott. They return home Sunday after playing the Rams in Hawaii on Saturday.

Elliott continues training on his own in Cabo, while holding out for a new deal.

“Zeke has the ability to just completely hit the ground running, if I may use that,” Jones said. “He has that, and we expect that. He says it, and I believe him, that he’s in great shape. So I don’t think that’ll be an issue when he does come back.”

The Cowboys have Elliott under contract for $3.85 million in 2019 and $9.09 million in 2020 under his fifth-year option. They then could use the franchise tag on him.

They repeatedly have said they have made the star running back a “solid” offer, but the Cowboys want to pay Elliott somewhere in the range of what the Jets signed Le'Veon Bell for this offseason, not what the Rams gave Todd Gurley in July 2018.

Gurley’s average annual salary is $14.375 million; Bell’s is $13.125 million. Elliott reportedly wants $15 million a season.

Jones repeatedly has said he has been here before, and he has.

The Cowboys played the first two games of the 1993 season without Emmitt Smith, going 0-2. But they never backed down. Instead, Smith agreed to the deal that made him the highest-paid running back in football at the time but didn’t pay him the quarterback money he wanted.

Jones used a bloody analogy Tuesday, indicating the Cowboys are willing to wait in talks with Elliott, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, too.

The Cowboys signed veteran Alfred Morris since camp started, and they have praised rookie draft pick Tony Pollard at every chance.

“We have to be ready to go without [Elliott], and we’re getting that way,” Jones said.

Whether they have Elliott or not, the Cowboys likely will be favored in their first three games against the Giants, Washington and the Dolphins.

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