Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys reach record $90M deal

Charles RobinsonNFL columnist

After an all-night negotiating session spent sorting out the details of a massive new deal, the Dallas Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott finally have a contract extension.

It ends a standoff that was sometimes reminiscent of the Emmitt Smith holdout in 1993, as the two sides reached a whopping six-year, $90 million contract extension that will make Elliott the highest-paid running back in the history of the NFL, a source confirmed to Yahoo Sports.

ESPN’s Ed Werder was the first to report the contract figures Wednesday. Although the specific cash flow of the deal has yet to be revealed, sources confirmed to Yahoo Sports that it will contain $50 million in guarantees and ultimately extend the remaining years of Elliott's current deal through 2026. The total cash outlay in that eight-year period will be nearly $103 million.

The six-year extension for Elliott eclipses the four-year, $60 million pact signed by the Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley in 2018, setting a record in average salary and overall money for the running back position. Interestingly, that’s precisely what Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said Dallas wouldn’t be doing as recently as August, going so far to state in July that Dallas “damn sure” wouldn’t be a market-setter as it slugged out extensions with multiple players.

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Zeke who? He's the running back team owner Jerry Jones made a deal with to end a holdout. (Getty Images)
Zeke who? He's the running back team owner Jerry Jones made a deal with to end a holdout. (Getty Images)

Elliott apparently qualified as an exception, which always seemed likely given that his deal is expected to ultimately be the cheapest of the Cowboys’ “big three” extensions – including quarterback Dak Prescott and wideout Amari Cooper. It also seemed to become more likely as Elliott stood his ground and missed all of the preseason, pushing Dallas into a situation where it had to face having a crucial centerpiece off the field when the regular season begins against the New York Giants on Sunday.

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That concern will now fall to the wayside with Elliott reporting for meetings Wednesday morning and expected to be on the practice field in preparation for Week 1. Also important to the franchise and Elliott, it ends a negotiation that got testy at various times, as Elliott sought to remain in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, during the preseason while his representatives worked on the deal. That move put the running back out of reach of the franchise, which has in the past tried to break contract impasses by requesting a direct meeting with players.

Elliott’s deal now becomes the fourth major “building block” contract extension since last season, including deals for defensive end DeMarcus Lawrencelinebacker Jaylon Smith and offensive tackle La’el Collins. The agreement also sets the table for Dallas to more aggressively search for the right contract fits for Prescott and Cooper, whose long-term deals have now become more challenging as the team tries to calculate fitting their future salaries into a salary-cap structure that will be stretched to its limits over the next few years. Particularly in Prescott’s case, on the heels of the four-year, $134 million extension signed by Rams quarterback Jared Goff this week. That deal is expected to anchor Prescott’s salary in a similar space.

Elliott’s deal leaves the NFL with two remaining holdouts: Washington Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams and Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon.

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