Nearly 16 months ago, when Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stepped in front of CNBC cameras after committing to the richest retirement contract in NFL history, he sounded like a man for sale – maybe more than anyone else – the generous $ 90 he was going to sign with Ezekiel Elliott.
Jones talked about how Elliott “worked” and “used his skills” to conquer his market. He believed in Elliott’s “big heart” and twisted a thin logic about how Emmitt Smith proved that runners could have long careers in the NFL. And in pointing out the reality of the moment, Jones briefly acknowledged what many were thinking that day.
“When you talk about this kind of money,” Jones said, “we’re all overpaid.”
At the time, Jones could not understand how right he was. In just under two seasons, and most of the transaction began in 2021, the reality collapsed almost as hard as Elliott’s performance. The two pace agreements that helped increase Elliott’s orbit pay were described as catastrophic (see: Todd Gurley’s now-canceled deal with the Los Angeles Rams and David Johnson’s contract with the Arizona Cardinals), and Elliott he saw his perch himself. among the best runners in the league beaten by trends that are beginning to move away from him.
What does Ezekiel Elliott’s salary look like right now?
Is there still room for a physical cow-bell runner who devours most of the transport and doesn’t matter much in the passing game? Yes. But his name is Derrick Henry and he looks like a unicorn, something Elliott was supposed to be at this point in his career. All others with similar abilities are winged backs whose physical nature is accentuated by a running partner. As for the rest of the league’s special players, those who dominate the touchdowns do so by playing significant roles in passing offenses, such as Alvin Kamara Saints of New Orleans, Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings and (when healthy), players like Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers and Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants.
The only guy in the entire collection who most resembles Elliott’s style is Henry and he is also the lowest paid in the group, apart from Barkley, who is still in his rookie business. It is also noteworthy that Elliott obtained exponentially more practical guarantees when signing his extension: about $ 50 million, which is $ 12 million more than what the Panthers gave McCaffrey.
All of this is ugly math, given that Elliott is struggling with his health again and can’t be found in the top 10 league players heading into Week 16.
What he should focus on though is a few points: Elliott certainly doesn’t deserve his consent right now; he may be a greater function of Dallas’ offensive line than previously thought; and with Cowboys skating to the brink of having trouble with the pay ceiling in the near future or imploding completely into a rebuild, a return to high prices is a bigger problem than anyone hopes it will be in 2021.
That doesn’t mean Dallas can’t carry Elliott’s contract in 2021, which is a manageable $ 13.7 million ceiling. This one It is to say that the payment will look like a beached whale if it repeats a performance from 2020 that put it under an intense microscope. As Jerry said when the agreement was signed, Elliott is overpaid. But it sneaks into the territory of Rams of Gurley, who was eventually determined to fall into the category of “overpaid.“
Tony Pollard is doing well behind a suspicious offensive line
No matter how deep the validity of Jones’ loyalties, they will be tested if the hit and inefficient Elliott we see in 2020 becomes a good, but not exceptional, Elliott in 2021, especially if Dallas continues to look down the barrel. an astronomical extension for defender Dak Prescott and many other financial strains that will come with the reorganization of the team’s defense (which now seems inevitable).
Elliott was not helped by backup Tony Pollard, who ran behind the same offensive lines, but was much more productive with his touchdowns in the last two seasons – albeit with a limited load, which would probably reduce some of his effectiveness. Pollard’s touch increased. But sometimes it’s undeniable that Pollard seems to be running harder, hitting opportunities faster and slipping into a more versatile role and passing offense.
None of this came to Jones’ mind at the end of summer 2019. Instead, he smiled in the rooms and gritted his teeth as he joked about fattening Elliott’s wallet. The whole bluster was justified, because the future seemed so certain. The offense developed its young construction elements and an extension with Prescott seemed inevitable (and probably cheaper than what materialized). The defense had talent and depth. The coaching staff was not completely canceled, after leaving the 2018 season with a strong race and a playoff victory.
Now? Much of this certainty has crumbled. And no one is very sure what will happen from here. Maybe the defensive coaching staff is fired and equipped with teachers who have a schematic sense of talent. Maybe Prescott is back in tears. Maybe head coach Mike McCarthy is back and proves that the owner’s total unwillingness to criticize him is well-founded.
And maybe Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys, hoped they would sign – a dominant guy carrying the load in a Derrick Henry’s womb – eventually materializes. Meanwhile, the uncertainty increases, and the weight of the questions about Elliott will be equated with the burden of the contract he is not living.
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