FRISCO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – “Zeke Watch” has come to an end. The Dallas Cowboys and the star running back have agreed on a 6-year, $90 million extension, the team announced Wednesday morning.
The deal makes Ezekiel Elliott the highest-paid running back in the league.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) September 4, 2019
Elliott’s contract would total to $103 million over eight years with about half of it being guaranteed.
Fans have been eagerly awaiting Elliott’s return to the Cowboys after he held out of training camp and the team’s preseason games last month. He still had two years remaining on his rookie deal heading into the 2019 training camp and was reportedly looking to be the highest-paid running back in the NFL, ahead of Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley.
The 24-year-old led the league of rushing last season with 1,434 yards and has been a force for the Cowboys offense since he was drafted fourth overall in the 2016 draft.
Elliott spent his time in Cabo San Lucas where he reportedly trained during his holdout. He returned to North Texas on Tuesday, where he was met with cameras and fans who were excited for his return.
Talks between Elliott and the Cowboys went back and forth during the holdout and had left questions about whether he would be available for the team’s first regular season game on Sunday against the New York Giants.
However, his return on Tuesday signaled a light at the end of the tunnel.
The saga of Elliott’s holdout involved owner Jerry Jones as he was outspoken during the contract negotiations since training camp started. Comments from Jones appeared to make fans restless as they wondered if Elliott would ever return to the team.
Jones told CBS 11 Sports’ Bill Jones that “you don’t have to have a rushing champion to win a Super Bowl,” which made national headlines and was talked about on numerous sports radio and TV shows. He also jokingly said “Zeke who?” after the team’s preseason game against the Rams, which reportedly didn’t sit well with Elliott and his agent.
Jones talked to CNBC Wednesday morning after ringing the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange. He commented about Elliott’s new extension.
“I’m $100 million lighter as of this morning,” he jokingly said. “Zeke has been arguably our best player… he’s an incremental part to our success.”
“Zeke has a big heart. Now he’s got a thick pocketbook, too,” Jones added.
At his news conference, head coach Jason Garrett said he and the team are excited for Elliott’s return and that the 24-year-old will be at practice Wednesday.
It was a topsy-turvy start to the season for fans of the Cowboys, but now they can breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to the team’s home opener on Sunday.
A news conference will reportedly take place Thursday to make the deal official.
Some Cowboys fans voiced their support for Elliott amid the news of his extension and believe he’s earned his payday.
“He’s earned his sport, he’s earned the right. I think he’s earned it,” Patrick Banks said.
“I think he was worth the money. Running backs have a short shelf life in the league so of course he had to hold out to get it,” Cashmon Jones added.