They're getting closer, folks.
Ezekiel Elliott has yet to report to training camp for the Dallas Cowboys with the goal of landing a new contract, currently training in Cabo while the team readies to take on the Houston Texans in what's known as the preseason dress rehearsal. Elliott wouldn't have participated in the coming game even if he was with the team in Frisco, TX, but both he and the team would like to reunite as soon as possible, and definitely before the season opener against the New York Giants.
Talks have been progressive and optimistic for weeks, a source continues to affirm to me, but the two sides have been far apart on key points such as guaranteed money. The Cowboys are eyeing the four-year deal on Le'Veon Bell worth $52.5 million with $35 million guaranteed as the floor, but Elliott is focused on surpassing the four-year, $60 million deal awarded to Todd Gurley that includes $45 million guaranteed.
As it stands, things have reportedly progressed to a point where the Cowboys have moved the needle north of Bell but still behind Gurley -- per Ed Werder of ESPN -- with an offer that would make him (at minimum) the second-highest-paid RB in the NFL.
Sources: The most recent offer in negotiations between holdout Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys came from the team. Elliott has been offered a contract making him one of the NFL’s 2 highest-paid RB. That would suggest team offering more than LeVeon Bell and less than Todd Gurley.— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) August 22, 2019
There are still details to be hashed out, however, and with no additional insight into if the offer of guaranteed money has buoyed -- it could mean nothing is imminent, even if there are strides being made. Sources continue to inform me the odds are still great that Elliott will be on the field come Week 1, and with Sept. 8 being just 17 days away, it's very possible terms will soon be agreed upon.
The average annual salary for Bell sits at $13.125 million with Gurley's owning the throne $14.375 million annually. The latest reported offer to Elliott would mathematically land in between those two points, and talks will continue as he works to at least surpass Gurley in at least one metric.
Maybe all it takes here is to offer Elliott a deal that beats Gurley with average annual pay, but keeps his guaranteed money at around $38 million. That's more guaranteed funds than Bell but less than Gurley, giving Elliott bragging rights, salary-wise, but tempers the guaranteed money due to noted off-the-field issues that the team has fully supported him through -- including helping him combat the NFL in federal court in 2017.
All things considered, it's not a question of if the deal gets done with Elliott, but rather when and for how much. When you also, there's more than enough fuel to power these longstanding talks to a nearing and favorable conclusion.