Cowboys Rumors

Cowboys Best Choice A 2019 Elliott Re-Up?

The Cowboys‘ strategy of prioritizing extension for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper over Ezekiel Elliott have seemingly influenced the two-time rushing champion to consider a holdout. While Elliott is signed through the 2020 season and can be controlled on a 2021 franchise tag, a path the Cowboys appear to be pondering, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap tweets the team’s best move would be to extend Elliott now in order to have the remaining $12.9MM on his contract become part of the extension’s guarantee structure. The Cowboys should structure a deal that would enable them to cut bait after the first year of the extension, which if done now would be 2021, Fitzgerald adds (on Twitter). That would be unlikely to happen if Elliott heads into 2020 without an extension. Having not yet met the service-time requirements for free agency, Elliott must report to the Cowboys by Aug. 6. This gives the team considerable leverage against a 2019 holdout. A 2020 holdout would become more complicated.

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Lawrence, Giants

Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence is expected to start training camp on the physically unable to perform list, though he hopes to be “ready by Week One,” as Mike Florio of PFT writes.

The Cowboys certainly hope that’s the case, though recovery from labrum surgery can be tricky. Lawrence was playing through the injury in 2017 and 2018 and didn’t miss any time due to the injury, so he could bounce back quicker than most from the operation.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

  • Giants tight end Rhett Ellison may be a candidate for release, Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com opines. Ellison’s contract puts him in some jeopardy – he’s set to count for a $5.75MM hit with a potential for $3.25MM in savings if he’s cut. However, the Giants tend to rely on two tight end sets and No. 1 TE Evan Engram has suffered four injuries in the last eleven months. Dunleavy also listed outside linebacker Kareem Martin as a potential cut since he was signed to be a starter last year and now profiles as a backup. However, releasing him would save just $1.1MM against $4.83MM in dead money.
  • Melvin Gordon‘s threat to hold out from the Chargers could be a canary in the coal mine for the Giants and Saquon Barkley, Dunleavy writes. Barkley is still on his rookie contract, but when that deal draws to a close, he could very easily stare down the G-Men the way that Gordon is doing to the Bolts. Other teams have downplayed the value of RBs, but GM Dave Gettleman has publicly lavished Barkley with effusive praise, which may impact future negotiations. The GM has said that Barkley has been “touched by the hand of G-d” and has also routinely shrugged off anti-RB analytics.

Latest On Ezekiel Elliott's Potential Holdout

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is definitely considering a holdout, though Yahoo’s Charles Robinson reports that Elliott has not yet made up his mind one way or another. However, Robinson acknowledged earlier today (via Twitter) that the situation could go sideways fast. He writes that the club has discussed an extension for Elliott for a month or so, but those talks have not progressed in any meaningful way, so Elliott is now exploring his options.

Ezekiel Elliott Planning Holdout?

Even as the Cowboys have prioritized extensions for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper over his, Ezekiel Elliott participated in the team’s offseason program. He may be set for an about-face come training camp.

Elliott, who has two years left on his rookie contract thanks to the Cowboys picking up his fifth-year option, has privately said he plans to hold out from Cowboys camp, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. No final decision has been made, per Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson (on Twitter), but the fourth-year back is “absolutely” considering it. The Cowboys have discussed an Elliott re-up for more than a month, and how much progress the sides make between now and camp will likely determine if Elliott reports, per Robinson (Twitter links).

A recent report indicated the Cowboys do not plan to extend Elliott in the near future, and considering the historic workload he has amassed thus far in his career (an NFL-high 1,003 touches since debuting in 2016), the soon-to-be 24-year-old back may be set to force the Cowboys to make his second contract a priority. The team, however, has Prescott, Cooper, Byron Jones, Jaylon Smith and La’el Collins going into contract years.

But Elliott plays a position with a much shorter shelf life and possesses a limited window to turn his skills into a financial windfall. The Cowboys gave Elliott 381 touches last season, pushing his career per-game total to 25.1. Only two backs (Edgerrin James and LaDainian Tomlinson) have ever accumulated more touches per game than Elliott through three seasons. Another high-volume season, at a $3.9MM base salary, would run the risk of an injury or further mileage damaging Elliott’s value. Cowboys plans for another big Elliott workload have played into thinking on the holdout front, Robinson tweets.

Elliott, who recently skirted more suspension trouble, has won two rushing titles in three seasons and has played at a higher level than any of the Cowboys’ contract-year players. Dallas took care of its All-Pro offensive linemen and may face the prospect of its best skill player threatening to withhold his services for a while. Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell each make north of $13MM per year. Elliott stands to make just more than $9MM in 2020. Should he decide to hold out, he will follow Melvin Gordon‘s lead this year. The Chargers back has not accomplished what Elliott has but has publicly threatened a holdout.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Security Guard Pressing Charges Against Ezekiel Elliott

UPDATE, 5:35pm: Shortly after this story broke, Elliott’s attorneys released a statement saying that he was being extorted by the alleged victim, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). The statement reads:

“Over the course of the past several weeks, Mr. Elliott has been the target of extortion. Kyle Johnson’s filing of a criminal complaint against Mr. Elliott in connection with the Las Vegas incident is the latest attempt to do so. Mr. Elliott and his team are in contract with all of the proper authorities and are fully cooperating with them in their investigations.”

5:28pm: Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott won’t be suspended for his incident with a security guard in Las Vegas back in May, but the situation isn’t over quite yet. 

The security guard is filing assault charges against Elliott in Vegas, according to Enzo Marino of FOX 5 Vegas. The security guard, Kyle Johnson, alleges that Elliott “bumped me and then shoved me over a metal railing.” Per Marino, “Johnson said he was only seeking a sincere apology from Elliot, but decided to press charges after he says the NFL and Elliot tried to sweep the incident under the rug.”

The league spent a lot of time digging into it and the investigation garnered a lot of headlines. Elliott was summoned to meet with commissioner Roger Goodell a couple of weeks ago, and he released a lengthy statement afterward taking responsibility and apologizing for the incident.

Zeke has only been in the league for a few years, but he’s already had a lot of battles with the commissioner’s office. He famously went to court over his six-game suspension in 2017, and the Cowboys have said they feel Elliott has been unfairly put under a microscope by the league. We’ve also heard that if Elliott were to get himself into any additional trouble, Goodell would likely crack down harshly.

This all comes at a pivotal time for Elliott, as he angles for an extension. He’s under team control through the 2020 season due to the fifth-year option in his rookie contract, but he wants to get locked up well before then. We heard last month that Dallas wasn’t in any rush to extend him and could even let him play out his rookie deal and enter free agency, but then it was reported more recently that they had changed their minds and now viewed extending him as a priority.

Marino reports that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police will now conduct an investigation, and decide whether or not to charge Elliott with battery. We’ll keep you updated on the situation as it unfolds.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Cowboys, Rolando McClain

We learned yesterday that embattled linebacker Rolando McClain is looking to make an NFL comeback, but it doesn’t sound like his former team will necessarily welcome him back with open arm. During an appearance on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Cowboys COO Stephen Jones quickly shut down rumors of a potential return.

“Rolando has got to work on his off-the-field situations before he can even begin to think about being a productive player on the field,” Jones said (via Make Lane of WFAA Sports on Twitter). “And I certainly know he’s on that journey. We certainly wish him the best. But the league policies are what they are. We certainly know that we’re accountable to them, as is Rolando. I think that was a settlement that is final. Certainly hope that Rolando is focused on getting himself better and ultimately get himself in a good situation first in terms of the things that he’s battling off the field.”

Meanwhile, Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com writes that the Cowboys still own McClain’s rights. The team placed the linebacker on the reserve/suspended list back in 2016 after he was hit with a 10-game suspension. However, Williams cautions that if McClain earned reinstatement, the Cowboys would likely cut him. The 29-year-old signed a one-year, $5MM contract with Dallas back in 2016.

The Cowboys decision to trade for the linebacker in 2014 paid off, as the linebacker would go on to appear in 13 games for his new team, compiling 81 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble. He earned his first suspension from the NFL the following offseason, limiting him to only eleven games in 2015, although he still collected 80 tackles and a pair of sacks.

After signing that previously-mentioned one-year deal with the Cowboys during the 2016 offseason, McClain was handed a ten-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He then failed another drug test midway through the campaign, and the NFL slapped him with an indefinite suspension. After his third ban in two years, McClain was cuffed on a 2017 arrest for firearm and drug charges.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dak Prescott Not Eyeing Discount?

The quarterback market has grown rapidly over the past year and change, and Dak Prescott stands as the latest passer in position to benefit. Entering his contract year, the 2016 offensive rookie of the year has been negotiating with the Cowboys for several weeks.

Cowboys management has floated the idea of convincing the quarterback to take a slight discount in order to help the team retain a strong roster around him. Prescott, who is attached to a fourth-round rookie contract (four years, $2.7MM), may not be on board with that line of thinking.

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 said, via Jori Epstein of USA Today. “Because with gambling, with everything going into this league, everything is going to continue to keep going up.”

The salary cap has steadily risen by approximately $10MM annually over the past several years, and the recent rumblings have many owners ready to see what loosened gambling restrictions could do for the league’s revenue. The NFL and NFLPA are also negotiating a new CBA, which could be a game-changer for player salaries.

This points to a friendlier marketplace, particularly for quarterbacks. While franchise signal-callers out-earn their position-playing teammates, the league now has eight QBs averaging at least $27MM per year. Two summers ago, it had zero. While Prescott has not shown himself to be a top-tier quarterback, he has piloted the Cowboys to three winning seasons and quietly has two top-five QBR marks (2016 and ’17).

It’s important for all these guys to get every bit of their worth. I want to see Zeke (Elliott) the highest paid. I want to see Amari (Cooper) the highest paid,” Prescott said. “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.”

A recent report indicated the Cowboys were comfortable paying Prescott in the $30MM-AAV neighborhood. It sounds like they will need to get to that place, and perhaps higher, to strike a deal with their fourth-year starter. The Cowboys have been studying Carson Wentz‘s $32MM-per-year deal as they move forward with Prescott, but hurdles remain.

I mean, steps have to be made,” Prescott said. “They’re simple steps. For the most part, obviously you want to get closure and obviously you want to get it done, but the Cowboys probably feel the same way that I do: Nobody wants to take anything that’s not fair to the other.

I don’t think it’s fair to sit there and say, ‘This guy can’t get that because he needs the rest of the team.’ The rest of the team can all get theirs with the way the league is trending.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys’ Randy Gregory To Apply For Reinstatement On Monday

Cowboys edge rusher Randy Gregory will apply for reinstatement to the NFL on Monday, according to Mike Fisher of 105.3. We first learned last week that Gregory would petition the league for his return

Gregory is presently under “indefinite suspension” for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, but plans to request a “full reinstatement.” The hope, in Gregory’s camp, is that the rehab path will include the ability to partake in preseason games and training camp.

Given Gregory’s struggles, it seems likely that any reinstatement plan will ease him back into football life. Gregory has succumbed to his demons several times before, though he continues to have strong support from owner Jerry Jones. Just recently, JJ gave Gregory a new extension that secures his rights through 2020, despite the indefinite ban.

Gregory reportedly has not failed or missed a drug test during his latest suspension, a promising sign for his personal future.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rolando McClain Eyeing NFL Comeback

Former Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain is hoping to make an NFL return, as Matt Zenitz of AL.com writes. McClain, 29, hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2015, but he says he feels better than he has in years past. 

Every time I got in my linebacker position, it was bone on bone grind,” said McClain, the former No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. “Not only do I feel good, I’m recovered and I’m rested. I feel better now because I know I’ll be playing with two legs.”

McClain had three productive seasons with the Raiders, though they were marred by controversy. In 2012, he was booted from team practices after several incidents, and McClain subsequently took to Facebook to complain about the organization, going as far as to say that he wanted “to be anywhere besides here.” He was released by the team the next offseason before briefly catching on with the Ravens. However, less than a month after signing with Baltimore, McClain suddenly announced his retirement.

The Cowboys then took a bit of a risk trading for the linebacker in 2014, despite the fact that McClain had sat out the previous season. It ended up paying off for Dallas, as the linebacker would go on to appear in 13 games for his new team, compiling 81 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble. He earned his first suspension from the NFL the following offseason, limiting him to only eleven games in 2015, although he still collected 80 tackles and a pair of sacks.

After signing another one-year deal with the Cowboys during the 2016 offseason, McClain was handed a ten-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He then failed another drug test midway through the season, and the NFL slapped him with an indefinite suspension. After his third ban in two years, McClain was cuffed on a 2017 arrest for firearm and drug charges.

Given his off-the-field issues and a reported addiction to “purple drank,” it remains to be seen if McClain will get another NFL opportunity.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

La’el Collins Wants To Stay With Cowboys

Cowboys offensive lineman La’el Collins is entering the final season of his contract, but if he has his way, he’ll remain with the club for the foreseeable future, according to Herbie Teope of the Advocate.

“I would love to stay in Dallas my entire career,” Collins said. “I love the Cowboys, I love Mr. (Jerry) Jones; I love the Jones family. I love everything about the whole organization and what they’ve done for me as a person and as a player. For me, it’s just all about going out there and taking it one day at a time, and proving myself, proving my worth, showing them that I want to be there by what I do and now what I say.”

A projected first-round pick in 2015, Collins went undrafted after reports indicated he was scheduled to talk with police about the murder of a pregnant woman with whom he was previously involved. Authorities determined Collins had no involvement in the woman’s death, but he wasn’t selected in the draft after his agents indicated he would sit out the season if he were picked after the third round.

The Cowboys eventually landed Collins as an undrafted free agent. The LSU product spent his first two NFL campaigns at left guard, but moved to right tackle in 2017 after longtime Cowboy Doug Free retired. Because he was undrafted, Collins was eligible for an extension after only two pro seasons, and inked a two-year, $15.4MM deal with Dallas in July 2017.

Collins has managed to stay healthy over the past two seasons, and he’s responded with solid production, ranking as the No. 31 tackle in the NFL last year, per Pro Football Focus. The Cowboys have shown a willingness to extend offensive linemen in the past, as left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick, and right guard Zack Martin have all received hefty new deals in recent seasons.

However, Dallas also a number of other pending free agents — including quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and cornerback Byron Jones — whom it may deem more crucial to the club’s success. If that’s the case, Collins could hit the open market next spring.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.