The Dallas Cowboys could have running back Ezekiel Elliott back with them for the regular season after all.
Elliott on Tuesday was on the verge of reaching a contract agreement with the Cowboys, according to people familiar with the deliberations. Negotiations were to continue Tuesday night toward a potential deal that would end Elliott's holdout days before the Cowboys are scheduled to open the season Sunday at home against the New York Giants.
The prospective five- to six-year contract extension would be worth an estimated $15 million per season, barring late negotiating changes to the terms, according to one of those people with knowledge of the discussions. It would run through the 2025 or 2026 season, with Elliott already having two seasons remaining on his current contract. He would be due -- if the extension is completed for six years -- to make about $102.9 million over the next eight seasons.
Elliott, who had been training in Mexico, returned to the Dallas area Tuesday and could be on the practice field today with the Cowboys.
"I've been ready," Elliott said as he walked past reporters and fans gathered at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, according to WFAA-TV in Dallas.
Agent Rocky Arceneaux, who was accompanying Elliott, told reporters that the two sides were "very, very close" to a deal, according to accounts, and added: "They're committed and we're committed. That's why we're here."
Elliott and Arceneaux quickly proceeded to a scheduled meeting with Cowboys officials.
The $15 million average annual value of the extension would make Elliott the NFL's highest-paid running back, just ahead of the Los Angeles Rams' Todd Gurley.
Gurley agreed last year to a four-year contract extension with the Rams worth $57.5 million, including $45 million in guaranteed money. Gurley's contract has a potential maximum value of $60 million. Le'Veon Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal, including $35 million in guaranteed money, with the New York Jets in March as a free agent. Bell's contract can be worth as much as $61 million, all told.
Elliott, 24, has led the league in rushing in two of his three NFL seasons, both with the Cowboys. He ran for an NFL-best 1,434 yards last season.
He had two seasons remaining on his original rookie contract with the Cowboys, including the fifth-year option previously exercised by the team. That deal pays Elliott $3.9 million for the 2019 season and $9 million for the 2020 season.
He has been holding out, seeking a new long-term contract. With the Cowboys facing the prospect of going into the regular season without the focal point of their offense, negotiations intensified over the holiday weekend.
When Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made his weekly appearance on a Dallas-area radio station earlier Tuesday, he said the team was preparing to face the Giants with the players already on hand but was hopeful of getting the Elliott deal done.
"It will be great -- will be and would be great -- if before a short period of time passes that Zeke would be in that group," Jones said on 105.3-FM, The Fan. "But we'll see how today goes. We'll see how tomorrow goes. We'll see how the ensuing hours pan out."
Cowboys players were off Tuesday and were scheduled to resume practicing today in preparation for the opener. The Cowboys would have to determine whether they could have Elliott ready for something approaching his normal workload Sunday after he missed training camp and the preseason.
"I don't want to get that far ahead of it," Jones said during Tuesday's radio appearance. "But I know him to be, just knowing him, would know him to be in great shape for any type workload. He should be fresh."
Running back Ezekiel Elliott (left) and the Dallas Cowboys are reportedly close to agreeing on a contract extension that would pay Elliott an average of $15 million annually, which would make him the highest-paid running back in the NFL.
Sports on 09/04/2019
Print Headline: Sources: Cowboys, Zeke nearing deal