Ezekiel Elliott has a new contract with the Dallas Cowboys just in time for the regular season.
The star running back and the club agreed on a $90-million, six-year contract extension Wednesday that will make him the NFL’s highest-paid running back and end a holdout that lasted the entire preseason.
The breakthrough was finalized the morning of the team’s first full workout before Sunday’s opener at home against the New York Giants.
Elliott will get $50 million guaranteed. The $15-million-per-year average on the extension surpasses the $14.4 million Todd Gurley got from the Rams last summer. Gurley’s guarantee was $45 million.
The 41-day standoff between Dallas and the two-time NFL rushing champion came with the Cowboys holding high expectations coming off their first playoff win with Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott. They’ve won two NFC East titles in three seasons together.
Prescott and receiver Amari Cooper also are seeking long-term contracts in the final year of their rookie deals. But getting an agreement with Elliott settles the most important issue as the Cowboys try to get past the divisional round for the first time since winning the last of the franchise’s five Super Bowls during the 1995 season.
Elliott held out with two years left on his rookie contract, at $3.9 million this season and $9.1 million in 2020. The fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft wanted to be the highest-paid back after getting those two rushing titles in only three years.
Now the 24-year-old is, with a contract that totals $103 million over the next eight seasons.
“I’m $100 million lighter as of this morning,” owner Jerry Jones said on CNBC in New York, where he and his son, executive vice president Stephen Jones, rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. “Zeke has been arguably our best player. We’re glad to get him booked in.”
After being suspended for six games over domestic violence allegations in 2017, Elliott still had the best per-game rushing average.
But the off-field issues were part of the backdrop as the stalemate dragged on, although owner and general manager Jerry Jones said more than once he didn’t consider Elliott’s issues a factor as it related to a new contract.
Jones jokingly said, “Zeke who?” in response to a question from a reporter after a second straight solid preseason showing from rookie fourth-round pick Tony Pollard in Hawaii.
A few days later, though, Jones sternly said he had earned the right to joke about Elliott after the 2016 All-Pro’s representatives took offense at the remark. The owner strongly supported Elliott during a court fight over the suspension.
Over the next couple of weeks, as the regular season drew closer, Jones took an increasingly hard-line stance publicly, finally calling out Elliott for not honoring his existing contract during his radio show last week.
But Elliott’s agent, Rocky Arceneaux, told reporters the sides were close to a deal after Elliott landed at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Tuesday. Elliott spent almost the entire holdout in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.