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Ezekiel Elliott May Hold Out, But He's Not Holding All the Cards

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has privately told those around him he plans to hold out of training camp unless he gets a new contract, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. This news comes hot on the heels of Melvin Gordon coming out with an overt plan to stay away until a bigger payday materializes with the Los Angeles Chargers.

In today’s NFL, running backs are wise to negotiate when their value is the highest. They generally enjoy a preciously-short prime and the position has become increasingly devalued. Elliott has two years left on his deal, and it’s a safe bet that he’ll already be showing signs of age, wear, and tear when his body of work is evaluated in 2021. That’s the reality for even a 25-year-old back.

Elliott is making a smart business decision to do this, if that’s what he is doing. These private conversations have a way to be nothing more than publicly signaling.

That said, he’s facing an uphill battle. Yes, he’s one of the best runners in the league. He led the NFL in carries and in yardage and is a bruising, punishing force. But the Cowboys have plenty of other star or star-ish players to consider, like quarterback Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper on offense. They — particularly Prescott — could be a more vital cog in the team’s success for a longer time. Prescott may not be elite. He is also not as replaceable as Elliott.

Not long ago Dallas had another stud ball carrier in DeMarco Murray. His absence opened the door for Elliott. Yes, the team also filled the Tony Romo role with Prescott. Do they really want to roll the dice on nailing the competent quarterback jackpot a second time?

On a different team and different monetary considerations, Elliott could have all the chips in front of him. He could bully and push, knowing the other side wasn’t capable of calling a bluff.

That’s not the case with this team as currently constituted.

Then there’s the element of Elliott’s off-the-field issues, which are numerous. One hesitates to guess what is or could go on in Jerry Jones’ mind, but it feels as though a binary choice between Elliott and Prescott could lead to disappointing things for the ball-carrier.