Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout forcing front office’s hand

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 05: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 05: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

In an all-or-nothing year for the Dallas Cowboys, running back Ezekiel Elliott’s absence from training camp puts the Dallas brass to a decision.

Poker analogies abound in the early stages of training camp for the Dallas Cowboys. It’s fair to say that the organization has gone all-in this season in their pursuit of an ever-elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy. And who could blame them? After a slow start to the 2018 campaign, the Cowboys surged to a 7-1 record in the second half of the season. This was capped off by a win on wild card weekend before succumbing to the eventual NFC champion Rams in the divisional round.

Further, this is a young team studded with talent. Gone are the days where the Jones family remain foolishly attached to aging veterans in hopes of capturing old magic. Granted, there is an exception here in the form of future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten. But Witten still shares a similar trait with the rest of the team: no championship ring. In other words, he’s as hungry as the rest of them.

All systems go, right? When you have aces in hand like Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Demarcus Lawrence, it’s easy to let the mind wander and dream about extended playoff runs and a return to NFL prominence. Speaking of Lawrence, if there’s anything to really be excited about, it’s that defense. Yeah, that same defense that finished Top-10 in most major categories last year? All they did was add Robert Quinn to the mix to make quarterbacks lives even more miserable.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to training camp. In a move that came as no surprise, fourth year running back Ezekiel Elliott failed to make the team’s charter flight to Oxnard, CA. Of course, if you follow the NFL, you understand this is a growing trend among the elite backs in the game. Last season, then-Steeler Le’Veon Bell held out to the tune of the entire year. This season, it’s the Chargers’ Melvin Gordon, and now, Elliott.

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The implications of these holdouts are clear: more money. In a league where running backs have become more and more undervalued, it’s obvious that these guys have banded together so that they get what they feel they deserve. Objectively speaking, it’s hard to blame them. They play a position in which they take brutal beatings on a weekly basis. Moreover, it’s been an unspoken thing among NFL front offices that their intent is to run these guys into the ground before discarding them and drafting their replacements. The last thing the Cowboys wanted to hear after their “all-in” was their star runner essentially saying the same thing. But here we are, and we’re about to see a showdown over a huge pot.

So now it boils down to who blinks first. Realistically speaking, it’s probably the Jones family. Elliott’s camp knows they’ve got leverage. If the Cowboys want to contend for a Super Bowl, they’re going to have to call the raise. Sure, there’s probably a lot of backs who could churn out yardage behind that offensive line, especially now that All Pro center Travis Frederick has returned from last year’s bout with Guillan-Barre syndrome. But none of them possess the wow factor that Elliott does. Everyone knows this, so expect a new deal to come sooner rather than later.

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It’s all par for the course in terms of your standard Dallas Cowboys soap opera. It’s not an ideal scenario. You’d like to have all your horses present at the start of camp and be rid of any potential distractions. But such is life for this franchise. It’s never fun to have that proverbial showdown at the river so early in the game, but this is the price of poker, and poker they will play.

  • Published on 07/29/2019 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 07/29/2019 at 06:11 AM