By Mike Fisher and Jonathon Shipman
(105.3 THE FAN) - Holdout running back Ezekiel Elliott is in receipt of a new contract extension offer from the Dallas Cowboys that a source close to the negotiations tells us would put his new annual salary "close to the Todd Gurley range."
The Cowboys as of a month ago were willing to pay Elliott more than the Jets’ Le’Veon Bell ($13 mil APY) but less than the Rams’ Gurley ($14 mil APY).
How significant is the movement from Dallas? That is in the eye of the beholder. Amid breathless reports that Elliott has “turned down the offer(s) ... well, that’s self-evident, as otherwise he’d be in
Frisco with a pen in his hand and a helmet at the ready. Meanwhile, Cowboys COO Stephen Jones is on-record as telling 105.3 The Fan that Dallas has been “very generous” in talks.
Meanwhile, a few days ago Jones downplayed a 105.3 The Fan report that suggested an agreement was “imminent” while also mentioning how quickly a deal can get done.
Elliott wants to be a "Cowboy for life," as he recently told Maxim magazine. But he also wants more than just "close" to Gurley’s APY; the two-time NFL rushing champ seeks money that would make him the highest-paid running back in NFL history. Part of that desire includes surpassing Gurley’s other contractual numbers ($60 million total with $45 million guaranteed); two sources tell us that Dallas has less of a problem with that first number than it does with the latter.
In other words, the Cowboys - who view Gurley’s contract as an outlier and a mistake - do not want to guarantee Elliott $45 million.
“I'm optimistic that we can get Zeke's deal done,” owner Jerry Jones said. “But we're gonna play football one way or the other."
But whether one’s mood is “optimistic” or otherwise, Elliott’s Cabo-based holdout has effectively put Bell’s contract (a four-year, $52-million deal with $27 million guaranteed) in the dust.
Now it’s about racing against Gurley - and it’s about racing against time toward Week 1 of the regular season.