Reporter Kent Somers on how the branding behind the Dallas Cowboys made them “Americas Team”.
USA TODAYThe Cowboys have the centerpiece of their offense back in the fold. Running back Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys agreed to terms on a six-year, $90 million extension Wednesday to settle the disagreement fueling the Pro Bowler’s lengthy holdout, the team announced. Reports indicate he is expected to practice Wednesday.With the extension, Elliott is set to become the highest-paid running back in the NFL — compensation that the league’s rushing title holder felt he deserved after leading all backs in rushing yards per game each of his three seasons in the NFL.In both annual value and guaranteed money,the deal bests the four-year, $57.5 million contract that Todd Gurley reached with the Los Angeles Rams last July. According to the team’s announcement, $50 million of Elliott’s contract is guaranteed, whereas nearly $22 million was guaranteed in Gurley’s extension.JERRY JONES TALKED THE TALK: But Ezekiel Elliott knew Cowboys owner would pay upZEKE GOT PAID: While owner Jerry Jones got playedElliott becomes the latest Cowboys star to receive a long-term extension this offseason after defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, linebacker Jaylon Smith and offensive tackle La’el Collins all reached pacts. Quarterback Dak Prescott and receiver Amari Cooper, however, each enter the last year of their deals.Elliott had two years remaining but still didn’t report to camp as he tried to force the Cowboys’ hand. After not joining the team charter to Oxnard, California, Elliott went to train in Cabo San Lucas. He later returned there to train with Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk during his holdout but headed back to Dallas on Tuesday in anticipation of the extension.Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Thursday he expected Elliott to miss the season opener.“I’m operating as though right now he’s going to miss regular-season games,” Jones said from the bowels of AT&T Stadium. “My entire expectation for what we’re putting together as a team right now would anticipate, with him holding out and not having any training camp, that he’s going to miss games. I just accept that.”But Elliott “can’t and won’t miss them all,” Jones added. “And we need Zeke. We’re a better team with Zeke.”Jones held out hope, however, that Elliott might be available for the opener against the New York Giants.“It will be great – will be and would be – if before a short period of time passes, Zeke would be in that group” preparing for Week 1, Jones told Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday.Elliott finished 2018 with 304 carries for 1,434 yards and six scores. Active in the receiving game, too, Elliott compiled 2,001 yards from scrimmage and nine total touchdowns. He touched the ball on more than a third of the team’s offensive snaps.“He’s the straw, if you will, that stirs our drink,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said in May.Elliott returns to a running back room that rookie Tony Pollard headlined during training camp. The Memphis product drew praise from teammates, coaches and front office members for his ability and poise. Right guard Zack Martin said Tuesday the team has a “damn good back” in Pollard.The Cowboys still expect to use Pollard to spell Elliott at times and at others to complement him under first-year coordinator Kellen Moore. The Cowboys envision a tandem duo like the Saints showed last season with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Jerry Jones on Cowboys OC Kellen Moore’s creativity:”I’m not paying money for an experienced coach. What I’m paying for is the stuff you get when you get youth. … Imagination, enthusiasm, can-do, taking some risks. We need that since we sacrificed a little experience.” pic.twitter.com/s96c9adc7x— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) August 30, 2019Teammates held fast in support of Elliott throughout his absence. Several who spoke during training camp said they understood the business of the NFL and that Elliott would stay in shape while away. Elliott communicated regularly with Prescott and running backs coach Gary Brown while in Cabo. Prescott didn’t pressure his close friend and draft classmate to return early.“Friendship is friendship and business is business,” Prescott told reporters after a training camp scrimmage. “You don’t cross those.”The quarterback said he didn’t spend time considering what regular-season games would look like if Elliott were to miss time. Owner Jerry Jones, too, maintained he had no strict timeline for negotiations. Jones asked reporters: When had he ever not closed a deal that he wanted to?“[A deal will] happen,” the owner/GM said. “The results are too good for them and too good for the Cowboys. Think about it a minute. The results are too good for them and too good for the Cowboys. That always happen when it’s good for both of them.”On Tuesday, the deal finally materialized. Now, a Cowboys team looking to defend its NFC East title—and crack the conference championship for the first time since 1995—enters the Sept. 8 opener with better resources to chase that goal.Questions loom with Prescott and Cooper’s contracts, but those questions will wait another day as the NFL salary cap continues to rise.“For somebody to say you can only take so much because of the salary cap or you can only do this or that, I don’t know how fair that is to say,” Prescott told USA TODAY Sports in July. “Because with gambling, with everything going into this league, everything is going to continue to keep going up.“It’s important for all these guys to get every bit of their worth. I want to see Zeke the highest paid. I want to see Amari the highest paid. I want to see myself up there. And I don’t think any of that is too far-fetched. Because at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, a year or two later, you’re not going to be the highest paid. That’s just the way the game goes.”Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideIf you love talking football, we have the perfect spot for you. Join our Facebook Group, The Ruling Off the Field, to engage in friendly debate and conversation with fellow football fans and our NFL insiders.