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Ezekiel Elliott signs six-year, $90M contract extension

The Dallas nightmare is over.

Ezekiel Elliott has a new massive contract extension that will keep him wearing the Cowboys' star for years to come.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Jane Slater reported Wednesday that the Cowboys and Elliott have agreed to a six-year, $90 million extension, per sources informed of the deal. In all, it's $103 million over eight years, with $50 million guaranteed, Rapoport added. The team later confirmed the deal.

The contract extension makes Elliott the top-paid running back, which leapfrogs Todd Gurley's $14.375 million per year. He also is the first Cowboys running back to eclipse $100 million in total value.

"Zeke has been arguably our best player," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in an interview Wednesday morning with CNBC. "I'm not trying to be unfair to anybody else. But he's an incremental part to our success. We're glad to get him booked in, we're glad to have him on the team. And he plays a position that has some pretty interesting dynamics to it because running backs are short-lived, although we had what I consider to be one of the top five greatest ones in Emmitt Smith, and Emmitt ran the ball for 13 years. So you don't have to have a four- or five-year career to be a running back. On the other hand, Zeke allows us to create such problems for the defense that then we can open it up to our passing, open it up for Dak Prescott."

A press conference is set for Thursday as Elliott rejoins the Cowboys, Slater added. As for the season opener, Elliott, who hasn't practiced with the team since June, is likely to see 20-25 reps, Slater reported, with rookie Tony Pollard behind him and fullback Jamize Olawale taking on the role of being the best blitz-pickup option on third downs. Slater pointed out that was the plan as of Tuesday, but obviously things can change.

"Zeke's been a big part of our team," coach Jason Garrett told reporters Wednesday. "He's so well respected by everybody in our organization. He's been a really important player for us so it's great to get him back in here.

"We anticipate him practicing. We'll see how he does. He'll go through the dynamic warm up and individual and we'll see how he's responding. He's in very good shape, he looks good but he hasn't practiced with pro football players. We'll just see how he fits back in but he's a quick study, he's a smart guy, an excellent football IQ so we'll just see where he is and adjust accordingly as we go."

The offseason has ebbed and flowed with Zeke news like the moon pulling at the tide. At several stages, the Cowboys appeared to be comfortable handing Elliott a new extension with two years left on his deal. At other points, Jerry and Stephen Jones balked at making Zeke the highest-paid running back, suggesting they didn't want to reset the RB market, and even openly touting rookie Tony Pollard as a back who could carry the load in Elliott's absence.

With no deal in sight as training camp opened in late July, Zeke headed for Cabo to train while negotiations plodded along. He stayed away until the sides closed in on Tuesday.

As it appeared Elliott might be set to miss games, Jerry Jones, as he often has in the past, stepped up and ensured one of his favorite players would be on the field.

While many NFL teams eschew paying running backs, the Cowboys paid handsomely to ensure their offensive heartbeat would not miss games due to a contract dispute.

Since making Zeke the No. 4 overall pick in 2016 out of Ohio State, the Cowboys have built their offense behind a star-studded O-line and Elliott's ability as a workhorse. In 40 games played through three seasons, Elliott has averaged 21.7 carries per tilt, with two seasons toting more than 300 times (only in 2016 when he served a six-game suspension did he come in below the 300-carry line).

The Cowboys offense rode Zeke heavily again in 2018, with the running back compiling 304 carries, 1,434 rush yards, 6 rush TD, and 95.6 rush YPG. Playing in 15 games, Elliott ranked first in the NFL last year in carries per game (20.3), rushing yards per game (95.6), touches per game (25.4) and scrimmage yards per game (133.4). He also got more involved in the passing game, generating career-highs with 77 receptions, 567 receiving yards, and 3 TD catches. His 2,001 scrimmage yards ranked second behind only Saquon Barkley (2,028).

Last season, Zeke earned 47.9 percent of the Cowboys' offensive touches, second-most in the NFL behind only Cardinals running back David Johnson (48.3).

In 2018, Elliott (95.6 rush YPG) became the fifth player since 1932 to lead the NFL in rushing yards per game in 3-plus consecutive seasons. Elliott can join Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Jim Brown as the only players to win 3-plus rushing titles prior to turning 25 years old (turns 25 in July, 2020), per NFL Research.

Elliott has averaged 101.2 rush YPG in his career (second in NFL history, minimum 40 games played, behind only Jim Brown's 104.3). Zeke became just the fifth player in NFL history with 4,000-plus rush yards and 1,000-plus receiving yards in his first three seasons, joining Chris Johnson (2008-2010), LaDainian Tomlinson (2001-2003), Barry Sanders (1989-1991) and Ottis Anderson (1979-1981).

Since entering the league in 2016, Elliott has 19 games with 100-plus rushing yards, five more than the next closest player (Jordan Howard, 14).

Since 2016, the Cowboys have averaged 23.9 points, 361.5 total yards and 142.0 rushing yards per game with Elliott in the lineup. Sans the start back those totals dipped to 19.9 points, 297.3 total yards and 106.0 rushing yards per game.

Zeke's presence has also made life easier for Dak Prescott, whose passer rating is 12.2 points lower in full games that Elliott has not played.

Elliott's new massive deal marks the fourth big payday the Cowboys have shelled out this offseason. Dallas handed pass-rusher Demarcus Lawrence $105 million in April, inked linebacker Jaylon Smith to a $63 million deal in August, and gave right tackle La'el Collinsa five-year extension with $50 million in new money on Tuesday.

Even with all that cash shelled out, the Cowboys are still staring at potential big deals for Prescott, receiver Amari Cooper and corner Byron Jones.

Business never sleeps in Dallas.

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