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Cowboys news: Ezekiel Elliott only thinking about 2022, not about 2023 and his contract

The latest news and notes surrounding the Dallas Cowboys.

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott not feeling pressure over contract, future with team - Todd Archer, ESPN

Zeke is not worrying about the future, just what he can do day-to-day, week-to-week.

“I think it is a big season, but I think you can’t look too far down the road,” Elliott said. “I think if I focus on every day, if I focus on having a good day of camp, if I focus on taking it week by week, I think everything will handle itself. And I don’t think there’s really a reason to look that far down the road. I think if I handle my business every day, then I’ll be in a pretty good situation at the end of the season.”

Elliott’s $12.4 million base salary is fully guaranteed as part of the $90 million extension he signed in 2019. The Cowboys have an easier path financially to move on from him in 2023 because there is no more guaranteed money in his contract. He is set to make $10.9 million in 2023.

Elliott’s per-game rushing average has dropped each season, from 108.7 yards per game in 2016, his rookie year, to 58.9 in 2021.

A big reason for the drop last year was a partially torn posterior ligament in his right knee, which he suffered in the fourth game of the season. Elliott was on pace for more than 1,500 yards through the first five games last season with five touchdowns. He topped 69 yards just once in the final 12 games and finished with 1,002 yards and 10 touchdowns on 237 carries.

How 6 decades of training camps turned the Dallas Cowboys into Central California’s team - Andrew Pridgen, SFGATE

Another reason why the Cowboys truly are “America’s Team”.

Over the past six decades, California has become an increasingly blue state — Dallas Cowboys blue, that is.

It’s no coincidence. Since 1963, when the Cowboys first traveled some 1,500 miles from their “Lone Star State” HQ to the northern Los Angeles suburb of Thousand Oaks, their preseason launching pad, the team has steadily increased their footprint and fan base in the U.S.’s most populous state.

The professional football franchise that self-identifies as “America’s Team” has really come to prominence here, starting in 2001, when it kicked off a two-decade, on-and-off affair with a Central Coast oceanfront city. Now 16 seasons strong, that relationship enables the Dallas Cowboys to lay claim to a fervent and loyal fandom unlike anything outside of North Texas.

Perhaps the discussion of what region Oxnard actually occupies is only semantics but — at least as far as the NFL is concerned — it’s also an important tool for those who observe and collect data on how fandoms move, showcasing how the Cowboys have risen to prominence here in recent decades.

Even as other NFL franchises in California have relocated inside the state, moved completely out of it or, in one case, left and come back — the Cowboys keep returning to Oxnard.

Battlegrounds: Top 5 Battles To Watch At Camp - Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com

Plenty of positions up for grabs entering training camp 2022.

4. Kicker

Along the same lines as the decisions made at edge rusher, the Cowboys has also seen the departure of Greg Zuerlein after a rocky 2021 season. The veteran was released by Dallas in March before signing with the Jets a few weeks later.

3. Swing tackle

Over the last two seasons, Tyron Smith has missed a total of 20 games. While he’s healthy, he is one of the best offensive lineman in the league. When he’s not, there needs to be a solid backup plan to rely on.

2. Second wide receiver

Without Amari Cooper in the fold, the top receiver spot now belongs to CeeDee Lamb and the second spot to Michael Gallup. However, with Gallup expected to be sidelined for at least a few games in the regular season, there will need to be a second receiver to over perform.

1. Starting left guard

Outside of quarterback, when a starting offensive line spot is up for grabs, it is always the priority. Luckily, the Cowboys don’t have a problem at the quarterback position, but left guard is a different story.

Randy Gregory, La’el Collins injury updates confirm Cowboys owner’s reasoning - Lauren Barash, The Landry Hat

Were the Cowboys correct for moving on from Randy Gregory and La’el Collins? Early returns say, yes.

Any person who knows Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones knows that the GM does a lot of spinning and explaining to get around some of his more questionable choices. The man knows how to manipulate his words and he certainly doesn’t like being wrong.

Earlier in the spring, Jones tried to spin a clear misstep. The team was prepared to offer former Cowboys DE Randy Gregory the same exact deal he got from the Denver Broncos before he bailed over contract language. To explain it away, the GM said he’d prefer to have two by naming “Armstrong and our other one.” Being unable to name your other Gregory replacement, Dante Fowler Jr., doesn’t exactly help your argument, Jerry.

But months later, it actually seems that one of Jones’s previous points about “availability” is coming to fruition for two of the star players the Cowboys lost this offseason: Gregory and La’el Collins.

Here was the owner’s quote from back in April:

“Availability was a big item here. Being available. Always has been. Always has been. And you can reach a point where if you’ve got a big question mark on availability — forget ability, if you’ve got a big question mark on availability, do you want to strap on millions and millions of dollars to your salary cap with that big a question mark at availability? It got too high for the benefit of the team.”

It turns out both Gregory and Collins aren’t available for at least the start of training camp with Denver and Cincinnati. Although Jones never said their names in his Tuesday press conference in Oxnard, the quote below certainly implies what he meant.

‘We’re not screwing around’: Cowboys defend offseason strategies after criticism - Jori Epstein, USA Today

The Jones family’s offseason approach may turn out better than first thought.

Jerry Jones’ tone spoke as loudly as his words.

The Cowboys owner, on Tuesday, referred to narratives he was “sensitive” to; narratives that make him “uncomfortable.” He follows and invites talk surrounding his high-profile NFL franchise. And yet, when narratives spin from his control, he’s apt to try to draw them back in.

So yes, the owner who doubles as general manager is aware fans have questioned the Cowboys’ commitment to winning this offseason.

If they’re raring for a championship, some wondered, where were roster upgrades after the wild-card loss? Why did the Cowboys’ coaching staff remain nearly identical, save a new wide receiver coach and special teams assistant? And why does a team so often concerned about salary cap limitations now carry the second most free money in the league? (The Browns have $48.3 million in available cap room, according to overthecap.com, before the Cowboys’ $22.5 million trounces the league’s remaining 30 teams).

Jones answered at length Tuesday even when he was not asked directly and, on some topics, not asked at all.

“We have put a lot out there for the fans,” Jones said. “A lot for the Dallas Cowboys out there. And we are not screwing around.”

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