The Dallas Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott have agreed on a $90 million, six-year contract extension that will make him the NFL's highest-paid running back and end a holdout that lasted the entire preseason, a person with knowledge of the agreement said Wednesday.
Elliott held out with two years left on his rookie contract, at $3.9 million this season and $9.1 million in 2020. The fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft wanted to be the highest-paid back after getting those two rushing titles in only three years.
The deal keeps Elliott in Dallas eight more years -- through the prime of his career, if not for his entire career.
The breakthrough was finalized the morning of the team's first full workout before Sunday's opener at home against the New York Giants. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn't been announced.
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Elliott will get $50 million guaranteed. The $15 million-per-year average on the extension surpasses the $14.4 million Todd Gurley got from the Los Angeles Rams last summer. Gurley's guarantee was $45 million.
"Elliott is expected to practice Wednesday under a roster exemption; team won't need to clear a roster spot for him," The Dallas Morning News Cowboys Reporter Michael Gehlken tweeted. "The hope from both Cowboys and Elliott is that he'll play Sunday vs. Giants."
The Cowboys' Twitter response to all the early reports: a dinner plate emoji.
The deal should allow enough time for Elliott to attend practice Wednesday, NBC 5's radio partner 105.3 The Fan reported.
With rumors of the deal in full swing, Elliott exited customs at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport Tuesday afternoon and was immediately greeted by a throng of reporters and fans eager to learn the back had struck a deal and would be on the field come Sunday.
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Mike Florio, with NBC Sports' Pro Football Talk, reported earlier in the day the Cowboys and Elliott were close to an agreement on the extension.
"If it’s a six-year, $90 million extension, the deal will have a new-money average of $15 million per year. But it also would tie Elliott to the Cowboys for eight years, since he has two years left on his rookie deal," Florio wrote.
Outside the terminal Tuesday afternoon, Elliott's agent, Rocky Arceneaux, told reporters Elliott and the team were "very, very close" to a contract and that they were here to continue negotiations.
Elliott is widely expected to be available for the team's opener against the Giants on Sunday. Arceneaux said he expects Elliott to be ready to play.
"I think Zeke showed his commitment by coming back to Dallas. We did not come here not to do it, so I think he's committed," Arceneaux said.
While at DFW Airport, NBC 5 cameras spotted legendary Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki who was traveling back to Dallas from a trip to China.
On Twitter, Nowitzki joked he thought, "I still got it" when walking out of customs to a sea of reporters -- only to realize they were waiting for the Cowboys running back.
In an interview with NBC 5's Newy Scruggs Tuesday morning, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said the team was obviously better with Zeke on the field and that he was looking forward to having him in the backfield.
"He's a huge part of our football team. Obviously we're a better football team when he's on the football field," Witten said. "The show is better when he's back there dotting the 'i,' for the football team. Like all fans, I'm hoping, believing that he'll be out there."
Although Prescott and receiver Amari Cooper are seeking long-term contracts in the final year of their rookie deals, getting an agreement with Elliott settles the most important issue as the Cowboys try to get past the divisional round for the first time since winning the last of the franchise's five Super Bowls during the 1995 season.
Even when he was suspended for six games over domestic violence allegations in 2017, Elliott still had the best per-game rushing average.
But the off-field issues were part of the backdrop as the stalemate dragged on, although owner and general manager Jerry Jones said more than once he didn't consider Elliott's issues a factor as it related to a new contract.
Jones jokingly said "Zeke who?" in response to a question from a reporter after a second straight solid preseason showing from rookie fourth-round pick Tony Pollard in Hawaii. A few days later, though, Jones sternly said he had earned the right to joke about Elliott after the 2016 All-Pro's representatives took offense to the remark.
Over the next couple of weeks, Jones took an increasingly hardline stance publicly, finally calling out Elliott for not honoring his existing contract during his radio show last week.
Elliott rose to stardom as a sophomore at Ohio State during the first College Football Playoff following the 2014 season, most notably at the home of the Cowboys when he rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns in a blowout of Oregon in the championship game.
He wasted little time having an impact with the Cowboys, winning the rushing title as a rookie while Prescott earned NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors after Dallas won a franchise-record 11 straight games and was the top seed in the NFC. The Cowboys lost to Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay in the divisional round.
After the addition of Cooper in a midseason trade last year, Prescott and Elliott got a wild-card win over Seattle following their second division title last season. The Cowboys lost to the Los Angeles Rams, falling to 0-6 in the divisional round since beating Pittsburgh in the 1996 Super Bowl.
The Cowboys kept just two backs behind Elliott when they made their final cuts of the preseason: Pollard and Alfred Morris, a seven-year veteran who was Elliott's primary replacement during the suspension two years ago. Morris rejoined the club in training camp. They later added Jordan Chunn.