Mike Jones, USA TODAY
Published 8:12 a.m. ET Sept. 4, 2019 | Updated 9:48 a.m. ET Sept. 4, 2019CLOSE
Reporter Kent Somers on how the branding behind the Dallas Cowboys made them “Americas Team”.
USA TODAYEzekiel Elliott knew who he was dealing with.Sure, the Dallas Cowboys running back understood that he still had two years left on his rookie contract. He understood that franchises don’t typically rip up contracts with multiple years remaining and hand out extensions. And he understood that his team had more pressing long-term deals to secure with other players like quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper, right tackle La’el Collins and linebacker Jaylon Smith.But that didn’t deter Elliott.The two-time Pro Bowl back understands that he’s an elite-level workhorse. Many will tell you, the best in the entire league.But more than anything, Elliott held out this preseason for a record-setting contract for a running back because he understood the mind of Jerry Jones.EZEKIEL ELLIOTT GOT PAID: While owner Jerry Jones got playedThat’s why Elliott knew he could buck the system. That’s why he remained steadfast in his demands until he got exactly what he wanted: a new six-year contract that will pay him a reported 90 million. Coupled with the final two years of his existing contract, Elliott will make $103 million over the next eight years.Elliott’s resume speaks for itself. In the three seasons since the Cowboys drafted him out of Ohio State, he has done nothing but dominate. On the ground (4,048 yards and 28 touchdowns), through the air (1,199 yards and six touchdowns), and as a pass protector. He’s the heart and soul of the Cowboys offense. It’s built to run through him. Both Elliott and Jones know this.But Elliot’s knowledge of Jones is what further empowered him.Elliott and his representatives understood that more than anything, Jones cares about winning. He desperately longs for a return to Dallas’ glory years. When Jones looks at the current roster he has constructed, he sees a contender. He compares this team to his Super Bowl-winning units of the 1990s. Having suffered through a 23-year-long drought wherein his squad has won just four playoff games, Jones knows these Cowboys must capitalize.He couldn’t allow contract disputes to sour relationships and derail the progress of the last four years. He couldn’t let a holdout by one of his most important players – if not the most important – send another promising season down the drain.The 76-year-old Jones’ desperation meant Elliott had his boss in a vulnerable position. The running back made these contract demands because he knew he could.Very few players would succeed at a similar attempt to strong-arm their way into becoming the highest-paid player at their position this early in his career, and at this stage of his contract.A holdout entering the final year of a deal is not that uncommon, especially for veterans with lengthy track records of excellence.AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideBut a stand like this from a player who had two-years and $12.95 million left on his rookie deal, from a player who hasn’t even turned 25 yet, from a player who has already served one six-game suspension for personal misconduct, from a player at a position that teams traditionally under-value?That doesn’t happen.Most running backs accept the norm: they must to play out their rookie contracts before they can think about returning to the negotiation table. Sadly, for most backs, the window of prime productivity begins to close around that four- or five-year mark. They can only hope to survive the grinding and pounding associated with their position long enough to receive that handsome, second pro contract.But Elliott saw himself as an outlier. He saw himself capable of accelerating the process of maximizing his earning potential by a year or two.That’s why he stayed away from the team throughout training camp. That’s why Elliott didn’t cave upon hearing Jones tell reporters, “You don’t have to have a rushing champion to win a Super Bowl.” That’s why Elliott only further dug in after Jones quipped, “Zeke, who?” That’s why Elliott didn’t relent even after Jones declared “There’s less pie left. Make no bones about it,” after Dallas gave Smith his extension a couple weeks ago.Elliott and his camp took all that talk for what it was. Posturing.This is the same Jerry Jones that loved Elliott so much that he tried to foil his fellow owners’ plans to extend Roger Goodell’s contact because Jones was so angry with the NFL commissioner’s punishment of Elliott for violating the personal conduct policy in 2017. Of course Jones wasn’t really going to play hardball with his prized running back. Jones knew all along that he had to pay Elliott now, just like he had/has to take care of Smith, Collins, Prescott and Cooper. He spent carefully in the seasons leading up to this year. Some of his peers would even say he went cheap over the last several offseasons to ensure that he had the coin to re-sign all of his young stars.Jones talked tough during this Zeke watch because if there’s one thing that he loves as much as he does winning, Jerry loves the spectacle. And he certainly secured that this preseason.With his words, he commanded the spotlight and created further intrigue. But Jones’ actions spoke the loudest. Just days after saying there was no deadline for a Zeke deal, he hunkered down and worked feverishly to complete negotiations before the season opener. Taking care of Elliott did indeed matter to him.All the while, Elliott bided his time in Cabo, training and waiting for Jones to get serious. Then he flew back to Texas Tuesday and waited for Jones and his agent to get the deal done.News broke early Wednesday morning of the new pact, and Elliott — whom Jones has made the first $100-million Cowboys player in history — is expected to hit the practice field the same day. Zeke always had the owner right where he wanted him. He knew it, and Jerry knew it, too.AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext Slide
Mike Jones, USA TODAY