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Cowboys make Ezekiel Elliott the highest paid running back in the NFL

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What could go wrong?

Dallas at Philadelphia Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

There was some thought that Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout would last into the 2019 NFL regular season but that won’t be the case. The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly signing Ezekiel Elliott to a six-year, $90 million contract extension.

Such a deal makes Elliott the highest paid running back in the league. Rams rusher Todd Gurley previously led all players at his position with an annual value of $14.375 million but Zeke’s $15 million average will eclipse that mark.

BGN previously discussed how the Zeke situation was a lose-lose for the Cowboys:

On one hand, the Cowboys are actually being smart by not rushing to pay Zeke. Giving top of the market money to a running back with such a big workload (1,003 career touches) and a myriad of off-field concerns wouldn’t be the smartest investment.

On the other hand, the Cowboys NEED Elliott. The Dallas offensive identity is built on running the football. Just look at how they’ve ranked in rushing play percentage over the past three seasons: 1st (2016), 3rd (2017), and 10th (2018).

The Cowboys were at their worst over the last three years when Zeke missed six games due to suspension in 2017. Dallas averaged 24.4 points WITH Elliott in the lineup and just 18.3 without him that season.

Dak Prescott has especially suffered when the Cowboys have had to primarily rely on his arm instead of Zeke’s legs. Prescott’s average passer rating in games with Zeke is 99.9. Prescott’s average passer rating in games without Zeke is 80.8.

So, while there’s certainly reason for Cowboys fans to be happy about Elliott’s contract in the short-term, there are still long-term concerns. Running back is arguably the most fungible position in the league. Investing a ton of resources into the position is not how smart teams build Super Bowl winners. Just look at when the Eagles won a championship with a backfield featuring LeGarrette Blount (inexpensive free agent signing), Jay Ajayi (acquired for a late fourth-round pick), and Corey Clement (undrafted rookie free agent).

The Cowboys have been busy signing a number of key players to contract extensions this offseason: DeMarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, La’el Collins, and now Zeke. The biggest one that’s still looming is the inevitable Prescott extension.