Cowboys should have paid Zeke less
By: Jeremy Trottier
The Dallas Cowboys are in a pretty good situation right now with franchise QB Dak Prescott returning as well as a huge influx in the draft of defensive talent. They look to be primed for a playoff run more than likely if Dak can revert to form. However, one of their moves in the last few years has been questionable, which was paying Ezekiel Elliott so much so quickly.
In this article, I will be going over a few reasons as to why paying Zeke such a large amount in his extension could be a poor decision, as well as why that is the case.
Previous Large RB Extensions
One of the most notable experiences we have witnessed recently of a RB getting a large extension then dropping off significantly is Todd Gurley. Gurley went from one of the top backs in the league at the time, arguably the top back, to off the Rams within a few seasons. At the time they paid the richest running back contract ever seen, which was four years $60 million and $45 million of which being guaranteed. He now remains unsigned this offseason after his one year deal with the Atlanta Falcons, only three years after the giant extension.
This is not that much of an uncommon occurrence either, here are a few more to prove the point:
- Le’Veon Bell – four years $52.5 million – outcome was off the New York Jets within 3 years of extension
- Devonta Freeman – five years $41.3 million – outcome was off the Atlanta Falcons before end of contract
- David Johnson – three years $39 million – outcome was traded from Arizona Cardinals within two seasons
- Jerick McKinnon – four years $30 million – outcome was multiple underperforming seasons with injuries hampering some of them
- Leonard Fournette – four years $27.2 million – outcome was cut from the team in 2020 and signed elsewhere
- Christian McCaffrey – four years $64.1 million – outcome has been injury riddled seasons with minimal production due to such, unknown future as of now
Not all extensions have been bad, Alvin Kamara performed extremely well in his 2020 campaign after his relatively large extension. Dalvin Cook has also been exceptionally talented within his own right after his five year extension. However these previous extensions have been majorly led with negative connotations so far.
There Are A lot of RBs Out There
One of the reasons I believe this contract extension was much too early, rather than lucrative, was because of the amount of running backs on the market is extraordinary, and they keep coming in with every draft. Paying Zeke for four years, or any running back for that matter, can lead to some major issues if they flop. Last year Zeke did decent, but had a lot of issues as well with Dak not playing most of the season.
If this trend continues, the Cowboys will be locked into his guaranteed money, and likely will not have the ability to bring in a true replacement due to this constraint. Having two running backs on relatively middle of the road contracts at once rather than one on a massive one has seemingly worked a few times now. Tampa Bay had quite a few running backs in the rotation, Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette, Ke’shawn Vaughn, and LeSean McCoy being the primary four. Clearly having one running back is not necessarily the winning formula every time.
Now is this to say Zeke did not deserve to get paid? No. It is more the duration and extreme guaranteed values for four years that end up coming back around to be an issue.