Ezekiel Elliott settled a long, well-documented holdout historically. After demanding a contract extension with two years left on his rookie deal, the Dallas Cowboys eventually caved in and handed him a six-year deal worth $90 million and a historically high $50 million in guaranteed money.
Through every storyline that comes from this contract extension, none are bigger than the clear sign that player empowerment in the NFL is on its way.
In the past, NFL owners have had full control over their players and their contracts and players didn’t have the leverage they do now, which doesn’t make sense in comparison to the NBA where the risk is lower, careers are longer, and players tend to have more control. In the NFL, careers are significantly shorter on average due to the physical toll it takes, yet the players have less control over how much money they make and how much is guaranteed dollars. There are so many players to choose from in the NFL, contrary to the NBA where top-players are more scarce to find.
The last decade has seen decreases in player holdouts. It’s been a long time since Darrelle Revis’ holdouts, and top draft picks missing training camp for a higher salary, but running backs like Le’Veon Bell and now Elliott have served as pioneers in this new player empowerment movement in the NFL.
Remember when the Pittsburgh Steelers refused to give Bell an extension and let him sit out a year? In the end, it hurt Pittsburgh more than it did Bell. He subsequently got paid $52.5 million with $27 million guaranteed by the New York Jets. This is what Zeke was threatening to do but Jerry Jones and the Cowboys wanted no part of what the Steelers went through. Dallas has the best team they’ve had since the 90s and Jones is 76 years old, so it’s smart that he’s going all-in on this season.
One major mark on Elliott’s resume is his track record. He’s been the center of a few cases since joining the league a few years ago and in past years that may have mattered, but his guaranteed production is worth the risk for Dallas.
The NFL still isn’t the NBA and it probably never will be. It shouldn’t be because I believe the NBA has gone too far right in regards to players empowerment. The NFL is run by the owners, but players are realizing the power they hold with their talent. Another recent example is Jadeveon Clowney who declared his trade destination a couple of weeks ago. Melvin Gordon won’t budge in Los Angeles, but the Chargers may be willing to trade him.
Player empowerment in the NFL won’t have the steam to reach the level of the NBA, but hopefully, there’s a healthier balance between it being an owner-driven league and where the NBA is right now.