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Ezekiel Elliott Gets Paid

Initial reports: six years added on to the two years Elliott still has left on his rookie deal, with $90 million in the extension including $50 million guaranteed. We'll have to wait for more specifics -- how many of those years are just "funny money" put on to spread out the salary cap charge? -- but that is a lot of money for a running back given what research has shown about running back value.

On one hand, we have this research by Steven Ruiz and Josh Hermsmeyer suggesting that Elliott is not as valuable to the Dallas offense as conventional wisdom would have you believe.

On the other hand, here's Doug Farrar arguing that Elliott is "a valuable player at a fungible position."

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14 comments, Last at 09 Sep 2019, 10:50am

2 I guess the Cowboys "had" to…

I guess the Cowboys "had" to do it, perhaps, since the fans seem to all support it, but I think if you are making a RB the highest paid RB in the league, you are basically guaranteeing to be massively overpaying him. It's not even clear Elliott is the best RB in the league. I'd want a guy to be clearly, unarguably head and shoulders over the competition before I pay him this much at a position where cheap, decent talent is so easy to find.

It's not like the Cowboys offense is some incredible unit that you want desperately to keep together. They had one amazing season where they were ranked 3rd in DVOA, but have followed that up by being ranked 10th and then 24th last year.

9 I've been saying for a…

I've been saying for a couple of years that Dallas' biggest need is on the offensive line. That's the unit responsible for Elliot, and soon Prescott, getting paid. Dallas needs to maintain elite-level play there, even through injuries, if they want to seriously contend for the super bowl. I don't think they've done enough.

12 I'd go so far as to say it's…

I'd go so far as to say it's clear he isn't the best RB in the league. I'm not sure how anyone with eyes can not think Barkley is better, and I think it's pretty hard not to argue Kamara is too, albeit in a very different way.

3 Like others, I feel this is…

Like others, I feel this is a massive overpay. these days the only running back I would ever pay is a combo receiver running back. Elliot is not that.

5 oh but . . .

don't forget about those 77 receptions he had last year!  Any time Dak dumps it off to him 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage on 3rd and 12 he could break a tackle and turn it into a 5 yard gain. :-/

7 That was only 16 of his 77…

In reply to by BlueStarDude

That was only 16 of his 77 receptions. The other 61 were good plays, on average.

The 16 is an exact number, by the way. 16 times he was targeted on 3rd & 10+. Those 16 targets turned into 16 receptions, 92 yards, and 0 first downs. http://pfref.com/tiny/96fpV

6 Slot Receiver

Yeah there are guys like Alvin Kamara, who can almost be thought of as "amazing slot receiver who Oh BTW, can also run the ball really well", who are no-brainers for those 12+ million contracts, and who you wouldn't be too unhappy getting even in that 18+ million range. Elliot is not that. He's a fantastic short yardage runner, and has never proven himself capable of being a downfield receiver, even in a slot receiver type role. Sometimes QB's have to check down, but even then there's more than one HB I'd take ahead of him, Kamara and McCaffrey being far and away better options.

8 If the 25 year old Adrian…

In reply to by theTDC

If the 25 year old Adrian Peterson was still available, even with his passing game deficiencies, he'd still be worth it, because every hand off he took had a decent chance of a play as explosive as a long pass.The Vikings mediocre w-l record during his years in Minnesota was due to wasting years trying to make do with Tavaris Jackson and Christian Ponder as starting qbs, and two poor head coaching hires.

Elliott just doesn't have that explosiveness which forces defenses to become predictable.

10 Contract details

Numbers are out: https://www.espn.com/espn/now?nowId=21-41075347-4

It looks like (depending on if/when the Cowboys decide to release Zeke before the contract runs out) this deal is for:
1 year, $28.1M
2 years, $37.7M
3 years, $50.1M
4 years, $50.1M
5 years, $61.0M
6 years, $71.0M
7 years, $86.4M
8 years, $103M

More concisely, it's basically a 4-year $50M deal which it would be expensive for the team to get out of earlier (though it's not fully guaranteed), plus team options of around $10.5M/yr for years 5 & 6 and around $16M/yr for years 7 & 8.

Year 4 is 2022 when Zeke turns 27 years old, and year 8 is 2026 when Zeke turns 31 years old.

That seems pretty reasonable for the team if we think of it as a brand new contract, although it's much less reasonable for the team if we treat it as a 5-year extension for a player who the Cowboys had the rights to keep for 3 years for $26M (including the franchise tag). On top of those 3 years, this contract gives Zeke (Dallas's choice of):
1 additional year for an additional $24.4M
2 additional years for an additional $35.3M
3 additional years for an additional $45.3M
4 additional years for an additional $60.7M
5 additional years for an additional $77.3M

Which looks like a reasonable deal for the team only if they keep him for 3+ additional years (through the 2024 season or later, when he'll be 29+) and he keeps up his performance the whole time.

13 I don't think this is that bad

In reply to by Dan

Getting to this conversation late as I'm on vacation. If you look at it as a 5-6 year deal, it's not bad. The new CBA will be coming up soon and there is a good chance that the salary cap and salaries will go up with it. Even four years at $50.1M isn't bad considering that Gurley got four at $57.5M last year. Zeke isn't Peterson or LDT, but HoF backs don't come along often. He will likely want another deal anyway if he plays at his current level for the next four years. If he doesn't, he can try his luck elsewhere. 

It could be an issue if he becomes injury-prone (he's missed 8 games in three years, not bad for a RB) or continues to do stupid crap. I still like this better than KC signing an extension with Hill (3 years/ $54M with $35M guaranteed). Given the current salary environment, this is probably a good deal for Dallas despite what the advanced analytics suggest. 

14 I think you're being too…

I think you're being too conservative - I think it's an exceptionally good deal for the Cowboys. I mean, you first need to totally abandon the idea that the Cowboys had him under contract for 2 more years already - that helped their negotiating position, but they never had the option of him playing under that contract. Wasn't going to happen.

And looking at it as an entirely new deal, it's totally reasonable. Even if you look all the way to the end of the contract - the 8th year would be something like ~$16M/year, at which point the salary cap should be ~$300M. So like, 5% of the cap, which would be $9.5M this year. Whoop-de-doo.

Honestly I don't understand people criticizing running back contracts anymore. The top running back has a cap hit about 50% higher than a *kicker*. These aren't bad contracts anymore.

11 personally feel dak's the…

personally feel dak's the one whose contract they will regret, though perhaps in a 'vikings with cousins/49ers with garappolo' way. having even a solid starter on rookie-deal money just seems like too big an advantage to forgo for just a 'good' quarterback (of course getting that 'good' qb on a rookie deal is the trick, though it seems like there have been fewer busts recently than the historical average)