Mac Engel

Jerry Jones’ history says latest extension for Ezekiel Elliott could be a epic bust

DeMarcus Lawrence on Ezekiel Elliott’s return: ‘We believed and trusted in [Jerry Jones’] process’

Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said Jerry Jones told the team that Ezekiel Elliott would rejoin the team eventually.
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Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said Jerry Jones told the team that Ezekiel Elliott would rejoin the team eventually.

Jerry Jones did not become a Bill Gates of football by habitually losing negotiations.

When it comes to his most beloved toy, however, he is an eager loser.

By losing at the negotiating table, his team/toy will win on the field.

“That’s what makes Jerry the best owner in (the NFL),” said defensive end Tank Lawrence, who signed a five-year, $105 million extension earlier this offseason. “He wants to pay guys to make plays because that will sell tickets.”

About that ...

Since the Dallas Cowboys last won a Super Bowl, just after World War II (OK, it was actually the 1995 season, but it feels longer), Jerry has pursued a fourth Super Bowl title with the abandon of a starving bear.

His latest attempt to secure another Lombardi for the house is to make Zeke Elliott the highest paid running back in the NFL, with a six-year, $90 million deal. Of that, $50 million is guaranteed.

Not much about paying a running back that much cash makes sense in today’s NFL, but this is Jerry.

Should you feel good about this latest deal?

Of Jerry’s previous big extensions and contracts, here is how they worked out. You be the judge.

Emmitt Smith. In August 1996, he signed a seven-year, $40 million extension with the Cowboys. He ran for more than 1,000 yards in each of the next six years, but the team was sliding regardless of what he did.

Smith played to the value of his contract, and was released by the team after the 2003 season as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher

Worth it.

Darren Woodson. In February 1996, he signed a six-year, $18 million extension. In February 2002, he signed a five-year, $20 million extension. He retired from Dallas Cowboys after the 2004 season.

He’s a Ring of Honor member, and one of the best defensive players in the history of the franchise.

Worth it.

Joey Galloway. In February 2000, the Cowboys sent Seattle a pair of first-round picks for the wide receiver, whom they signed to a seven-year, $42 million deal. Galloway suffered a torn ACL in the first game of the ‘00 season.

He had two decent years with the Cowboys, and he was cut after the ‘03 season.

Epic bust.

Flozell Adams. The tackle drove plenty of Cowboys fans crazy, especially when the team handed him a five-year, $25 million extension. He was a good, not great, player.

In February 2008, he signed a six-year $34.5 million extension with the Cowboys again, and that one was awful. He was cut in April 2010.

The first was worth it, the second was a disaster.

Jason Witten. He has signed a pair of extensions in his career, the first in July ‘06 for six years and $29.5 million; the second was a five-year deal for $37 million. He’s been one of the best at his position, and will at least be a Ring of Honor inductee.

Worth it.

Tony Romo. In October 2007, he signed a six-year, $67.5 million extension. In March 2013, he signed a six-year, $108 million deal. All things considered, it’s hard to argue that Jerry’s extensions for Romo were whiffs.

Romo will go into the Ring of Honor, and he owns virtually every major passing record in team history.

The team just didn’t win the way both Romo, and Jerry, wanted.

Worth it.

DeMarcus Ware. The outside linebacker agreed to a seven-year, $79 million extension in October 2009. For the next four years, he was a top performer, but in 2013 he started to slow and was cut.

The Cowboys could have used Ware and, in hindsight, should not have dumped him. He went to Denver where he won a Super Bowl.

Worth it.

Marion Barber. One of the worst extensions Jerry ever granted. In May 2008, Barber signed a seven-year, $45 million deal. He played three more years with the Cowboys and was cut.


Terence Newman. On the same day Barber signed his extension, Newman agreed to a six-year, $50.2 million deal. He was a good player, but dealt with injuries. He was cut after the 2011 season, but he continued playing in the NFL through 2017.


Terrell Owens. After two good seasons with the team, T.O. signed a four-year, $34 million extension in June ‘08. The entire 2008 season was a wreck, and Owens was cut after that year.


Roy Williams (Safety). One of the best at his position early in his career, Williams signed a four-year, $25.2 million extension in August 2006. He lost his aggression, and his coverage skills - never his strength - were exposed.


Roy Williams (Wide receiver). Proving he does not favor a particular Roy Williams, Jerry buried the UT version of Roy Williams with a six-year, $54 million extension in October 2008. This was after Jerry traded a first-, third- and seventh-round pick to Detroit to acquire him.

Texas Roy played two full seasons with the Cowboys, and his high point was a 38-catch season in ‘08. He was cut after the ‘10 season.


Bradie James. In September 2006, the Cowboys gave the inside linebacker from LSU a five-year, $20 million extension. He played six more years with the team, and was a nice player.

Worth it.

Jay Ratliff. The former seventh-round pick from Auburn played his way into a five-year extension worth $40 million. Although he had been a terrific player until that point, after he signed this extension in Sept. 2011 he was never as productive.

He was cut after the 2012 season.


Dez Bryant. When he agreed to a five-year, $70 million extension in July 2015, all of Cowboy nation celebrated. Injuries limited him to nine games in ‘15, and his production never came close to the years leading up to his extension.

He was cut after the 2017 season.


The final verdict: Lots of money. Lots of big names. Many wins. Many losses.

No Super Bowls. No NFC title game appearance.

But... the Cowboys sold a lot of tickets.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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