Shrewd business move cloaked in trademark wildcard tycoon panache, or detrimental roster building mistake? The Cowboys are about to find out.
On Thursday night, Jerry Jones coolly declared that the centerpiece of their offense, Ezekiel Elliott, is probably going to miss some games. This, with the regular season opener against the division-rival Giants a little more than a week away.
“He can‘t and won‘t miss them all,” Jones said, via USA Today. “We need Zeke. We’re a better team with Zeke. But we need to be able to win when we need to without players because of injuries, suspension or in this case, hold out.
“As I’ve said, this is a marathon.”
With Jones allowing the holdout to extend this far, it’s clear how he sees the leverage. Conventional wisdom says the Cowboys have at least a marginal advantage in talent over five of their first six opponents (Giants, Washington, Dolphins, Saints, Packers, Jets)—or enough to make his case in the court of public opinion that Elliott is worth exactly what Dallas offered him on a below-market long-term deal. If Elliott waits any longer than that to come back, he faces some pretty significant contractual implications.
Meanwhile, Elliott’s remaining counterpunch lies in the possibility that their run game completely stalls over that stretch, making his value evident. What, if anything, will Tony Pollard, Darius Jackson and Alfred Morris have to say about that?
It feels like an uphill climb given Jones’s ability to frame and manipulate the discussion. Even if Elliott’s value is painfully obvious, how many Cowboys fans will side with a generational back who wants to reset the market at the position?
That being said, how might Jones react if Dallas is sliding frantically into a game against the Saints in New Orleans on prime time television to close out the month of September?
Connor Orr, SI