Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys agreed to a six-year, $90M contract extension, making him the highest-paid running back in the NFL. Elliott’s $50M guarantee is the largest for a running back in NFL history.

Ezekiel Elliott raised eyebrows when he decided not to return to the Dallas Cowboys without a new contract. There was little doubt that the star running back’s on-the-field talent warranted being one of the top players at his position. However, his penchant for problematic behavior off-the-field led many to wonder whether the timing was right for “Zeke” to pull up to the AT&T Stadium in the Brinks truck.

This summer, Elliott made headlines after he was handcuffed and questioned by police for pushing a man down in Las Vegas. Elliott was not arrested as the man declined to press charges. However, it was the latest in a series of poor decisions by the John Burroughs School graduate.

Elliott has previously faced accusations of domestic abuse (for which he was suspended six games in 2017), breaking a man’s nose at a nightclub and pulling down a woman’s shirt at a St. Patrick’s Day parade.

It must be noted that Elliott has never been arrested nor charged with a crime in relation to any of the incidents. It is easy to see why the repeated occurrences, accusations and headlines would give pause to Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones on writing a ginormous check to the habitual line-stepper.

However, that’s exactly what he did.

According to Yahoo Sports, Elliott and the Cowboys agreed to a “whopping six-year, $90 million contract extension that will make Elliott the highest-paid running back in the history of the NFL.” Should Elliott play out the entire contract, he’ll earn nearly $103M over eight seasons.

Unlike the NBA, NFL contracts are typically not fully guaranteed. So the guaranteed amount is always what matters most. In Elliott’s case, the $50M guarantee eclipses the $45M mark set by St. Louis Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley a season ago.

While I wish Elliott would mature and leave the boneheaded off-the-field problems behind like a slow linebacker, I’m glad he pillaged Jones’ pockets and got paid what he’s worth.

Since he entered the NFL in 2016, Elliott has racked up a league-best 4,048 yards. That is despite the fact that he missed six games in 2017 due to the aforementioned suspension. According to ESPN, he is just the third running back since the NFL/AFL merger to lead the league in rushing twice during his first three seasons. Had he not faced suspension, Elliott was on pace to lead the league in 2017 as well.

In layman’s terms: Elliott’s got the juice.

Since he’s such a stud in the backfield, Elliott gets treated like a workhouse. He eclipsed 300 carries in 2016 (322) and 2018 (304). Many running backs have seen drastic decreases in production and/or significant injuries following 300-carry seasons. Adrian Peterson, DeMarco Murray, LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster and Doug Martin are just a few of the backs who saw their production fall off a cliff following seasons of 300+ carries.

According to the NFLPA, the average career for an NFL running back is less than two and a half years. Obviously, Elliott is an above average player and has already eclipsed that number. However, running back is still a position where players are considered old by the age of 30.

At just 24-years-old, Elliott should have several years remaining as a productive running back. He probably hasn’t yet reached his prime. However, with the numbers of carries he sees in the Cowboys backfield, it was important that he capture the bag as soon as possible.

All it takes is a glance over to the NBA at DeMarcus Cousins to see how a serious injury (or a series of them in Boogie’s case) can not only cripple the player, but his earning potential as well.

Nine-to-fivers often scoff at gargantuan deals signed by athletes but the reality is that the money is there to be made. Jones and his front office cronies will make money hand over fist due to TV contracts, naming rights, sponsorships, tickets, concessions, etc. So we should all be excited when the players, the talent that drives the league, get a nice chunk of change for their services.

Now that Zeke has gotten paid, the running back’s summertime stay in Cabo San Lucas (Mexico) is finally over. He returned to practice on Wednesday, trading in Mai Tais, sandy beaches and clear, blue ocean views for Gatorade and minute holes between massive defensive tackles.

Running back is a tough position. There is little doubt that Elliott will once again take a pounding as he attempts to carry the Cowboys into the playoffs. Fortunately, he’ll now have a fat stack of cash to pad every fall.

Ruiz holdout also successful

Speaking of successful holdouts, the rematch between unified heavyweight boxing champion Andy Ruiz Jr. and fallen champion Anthony Joshua is finally finalized. Though there was a rematch-clause in the original fight contract, Ruiz refused to sign off on the rematch until a few more Benjamins were added to his purse.

The lack of Ruiz’s signature caused a bit of embarrassment for Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn. Hearn had announced that the fight would take place in Saudi Arabia on Dec. 7 to much fanfare before Ruiz’s proverbial “Nah” sent him into a panic.

Anthony Joshua stopped by Andy Ruiz Jr.

Andy Ruiz Jr. celebrates his shocking upset of Anthony Joshua on June 1, 2019. Ruiz and Joshua will face off again in a rematch on Dec. 7 in Saudi Arabia.

According to The Athletic, Ruiz was set to earn approximately $8M, per the terms of the rematch clause. Ruiz threatened not to show up unless the fight was held in the United States or Mexico. At the end of the day, those demands were negotiating ploy to level up his pay grade. The holdout helped him secure a guarantee of approximately $10M.

Now that the contracts have been signed and the ink is dry, both fighters will enter the ring in December with something to prove.

For Ruiz, he’ll have an opportunity to prove that his seventh-round KO of Joshua in the first fight was not a freak occurrence. Ruiz (33-1-0, 22 KO) entered the first fight as a huge underdog and overcame a third-round knockdown to drop Joshua four times en route to a shocking upset victory.

Joshua (22-1-0, 21 KO) and his team have proclaimed that the stunning defeat was a fluke and the result of a “lucky punch.” Now Joshua will have the chance to prove that he’s a superior fighter and that his chin can withstand the hands of the portly-but-powerful and speedy Mexican-American fighter.

Follow Ishmael and In the Clutch online at stlamerican.com and on Twitter @ishcreates.

Ishmael H. Sistrunk is a columnist and the website coordinator for the St. Louis American and www.stlamerican.com.

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