Holdout running back Ezekiel Elliott’s representatives have told the Cowboys he won’t play this season without a new contract, ESPN.com reported Tuesday, citing a source close to the situation.
However, according to the report, the source added that Elliott holding out into the regular season is not likely at this time, given that Elliott and Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones want to get a deal done before the team’s regular-season opener Sept. 8.
On Tuesday afternoon, Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones, who characterized the team’s offer to Elliott as “very generous,” told 105.3 The Fan that the ultimatum is “news to us and it certainly doesn’t change anything.”
On Monday, former NFL running back Eric Dickerson said on FS1’s “Undisputed” that he spoke with Elliott’s agent, Rocky Arceneaux, who according to Dickerson said it was possible Elliott would miss part of the regular season but that Elliott and his representatives didn’t want that to happen.
With the Cowboys’ preseason starting Saturday and their season opener just more than a month away, Stephen Jones hardly sounded optimistic Tuesday.
“Oh, I think you can easily get out of Oxnard (without getting deals done). Be back in Dallas before anything gets done,” he said, referring not only to Elliott but also quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper, also negotiating new contracts. “As a matter of fact, I don’t see any momentum that would lead me to believe we’re going to get anything done while we’re out here (in California).”
Elliott is set to be paid a base salary of $3.9 million for 2019, and the team last month picked up the fifth-year option of his rookie contract that will pay him $9.1 million for 2020.
He earned his second rushing title in three years with 1,434 yards on a league-high 304 carries with six touchdowns last season, while adding 77 receptions for 567 yards with three touchdowns.
Elliott has been working out to stay in shape in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, according to multiple reports.
As a holdout during training camp, Elliott is subject to a fine of $40,000 per day missed. If he doesn’t report before Saturday’s preseason opener against the 49ers in San Francisco, he could be fined the equivalent of a regular-season game check, roughly $226,000. The Cowboys also could seek to recover a prorated portion of his signing bonus.
Asked Tuesday if he thought Elliott actually would miss regular-season games, Stephen Jones said: “I don’t know. You’d have to ask Zeke and his representation. Our goal is to get deals done. Our problem is we have a distribution dilemma. It’s our job to manage the (salary) cap, and we’re trying to divide the pie. The money’s going out the door, it just depends on who gets what.”
Jerry Jones last week said he thought a deal with Elliott could be reached but, referencing Prescott and Cooper, said that Elliott’s deal would have to allow the Cowboys to keep their most talented offensive players “under the same roof.”
NFL Network reported Tuesday that the team’s “generous” offers for the trio would put each in the top five “highest paid” at his position, but the Cowboys are prepared to play this season with each player on a “prove it deal.”
Additionally, I’m told they’re ready and willing to get the deals done but if the two sides can’t agree on numbers that make more sense the #Cowboys are prepared to play this season with each player on a “prove it deal.” https://t.co/Grwlg3zTV4
— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) August 6, 2019
Prescott said he has been talking to Elliott in the week and a half the Cowboys have been in camp in Oxnard, California, but hasn’t tried to persuade Elliott to report.
“Friendship is friendship and business is business,” Prescott said, via ESPN. “You don’t cross those.”
In Elliott’s absence, the team signed veteran back Alfred Morris, 30, who played for the Cowboys in 2016 and ’17 and rushed for 547 yards and a touchdown in 2017, a season in which Elliott missed six games because of an NFL-mandated suspension.
The Cowboys open their regular season Sept. 8 at home against the Giants.