Ninety million dollars, $50 million guaranteed, and eight more years of Ezekiel Elliott is what Dallas just signed themselves up for, giving their star running back to a mega-extension Wednesday after a holdout that lasted through all of training camp and the preseason.
Elliott will earn an average of $15 million per year making him the highest-paid running back in the NFL, narrowly beating Todd Gurley’s yearly average by a little over half a million dollars.
This signing is just the latest in a flurry of extensions the Cowboys have handed out over the past couple of weeks: They have made a point of locking up their young core for years to come. They gave linebacker Jaylon Smith $65 million over six years towards the end of August and locked up right tackle La’el Collins for another five seasons for $50 million on Tuesday. Add Elliott’s new contract and defensive end Demarcus Lawrence's contract, who they signed to a five-year, $105 million extension in April, to the mix and it adds up to over $300 million committed into keeping their star players in Dallas.
They most likely aren’t done either, as pro-bowlers Amari Cooper and Byron Jones are both on the last years of their deals and probably won't come cheap, being two of the best at their respective positions. However, the most important upcoming free agent for Dallas is of course quarterback Dak Prescott, who ended up being one of the biggest steals of the 2016 draft at 135th overall (fourth round). Jared Goff, the first overall pick in the same draft, just signed a four-year, $134 million extension with the Los Angeles Rams, and it would make sense if Prescott were to command around the same if not more.
One player this week that didn’t get the mega-extension he has been looking for this offseason is Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. Like Elliott, Gordon held out of training camp, and the preseason in search of a new contract; however, unlike the Cowboys, the Chargers haven’t bent to his demands.
Is Gordon as good as and worth as much as Elliott? No, but no one is really suggesting that. Reports stated that Gordon is seeking around $13 million per year, which would make him tied with David Johnson for the fourth-highest-paid running back, right behind Le’Veon Bell. Is Gordon worth just 2 million per year less than Elliott? Probably not as well.
Gordon is still 26; however, he has played 16 games only once in his four-year career, which was in 2017 when he rushed for over 1,100 yards but on just 3.9 yards per attempt. Last season he significantly improved that average, bumping it up all the way to 5.1; however, he missed four games due to injury.
The Chargers don’t necessarily need Gordon either with the depth they have in their backfield. Austin Ekeler has proven himself as a good complement and pass-catcher, and now sophomore Justin Jackson has the potential to routinely handle double-digit carries per game. With all the young talent that the Chargers will need to give contracts to, either at the end of this year or the next, it is probably not worth investing a good chunk of their cap into a position where they theoretically have a surplus.
It looks like the Chargers have come to the same conclusion, as they have reportedly started to engage in trade talks for Gordon. A good number of teams around the league could use a top-10 running back as well, and the Houston Texans are the first team to come to mind. The retirement of Andrew Luck leaves them as the clear frontrunner to take the AFC South, and they appear to be going all in. Part of the problem is that they already did. Trading two of their first-round picks and a second-rounder to the Dolphins for left tackle Laremy Tunsil left them with very few trade chips to work with.
The Dolphins could potentially use some of the capital they got for Tunsil and turn around and trade for Gordon and lock up their running back of the future as they have just fully committed to a rebuild. The Bills could potentially be beginning an upswing and depending on how confident they are in rookie Devin Singletary, could try to give second-year QB Josh Allen a star running back to help move the offense. The Buccaneers are also an intriguing option, as neither two running backs they currently have atop their depth chart, Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones II, are too exciting.
However, this is all just speculation. What we know right now is that Gordon plans to sit out the entire season, and the Chargers will have to try and make their playoff push without him.
Zeke just set the market, and now we’ll have to just wait and see how that positively, or as I suspect based on his expectations, negatively affects his quest for a new contract.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at Jorge.firstname.lastname@example.org.