NFL AM: Cowboys Sign Ezekiel Elliot


Cowboys ink first-round pick Ezekiel Elliot:

The Dallas Cowboys inked a handful of their draft class on Wednesday, including fourth-overall pick Ezekiel Elliot whose rookie pact is for four fully-guaranteed years at $25.9 million. Like all other players drafted in the first round, the Cowboys will have a fifth-year option on the rookie back.

It’s almost always bad business to draft a running back in the top five, or even 10 picks of a draft, but Elliot is a unique player, and the Cowboys are in a unique situation. The ‘Boys were sitting in the fourth spot because of the injuries to Tony Romo, so they’re not nearly as far away as most teams drafting within the top 10. In fact, Romo’s health will be the determining factor in just how competitive the 2016 Cowboys are, regardless of how Elliot performs.

The new Cowboys back spoke after being drafted by Dallas, and he’s excited to get back into AT&T stadium where you’ll remember he enjoyed a little success while at Ohio State.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Elliott after being drafted by Dallas. “It’s starting to sink in. I’m proud to be a part of this prestigious organization.

“I have a good track record at AT&T Stadium and I am excited to get back in there,” said Elliot.

Elliot will have plenty of opportunity as he’ll almost certainly be the Cowboys starting tailback Week-1 of the regular season, and the Cowboys are very likely to rely heavily on the run to try and help keep their signal caller alive. Head Coach Jason Garrett spoke after the team selected Elliot and spoke about how the team will get back to relying heavily on their run game like they had in 2014 with DeMarco Murray.

“This is similar to how we played a couple of years ago,” said Garrett. “We ran the ball so effectively, and I thought that had a positive impact on everybody throughout our team. We believe Zeke gives us a chance to do that.”

Elliot is about as good of a fit in Dallas as any player selected in this year’s draft, and barring the unforeseen, you can expect him to have an excellent year if the Cowboys can keep Romo’s shoulder in one piece. If Romo goes down again, teams will stack the box and make life difficult for any Cowboys tailback.

Mark Sanchez has thumb surgery:

While he can’t say it out loud, Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch can’t be devastated that presumed Broncos starter Mark Sanchez will miss the beginning of OTAs after having surgery to repair a torn ligament in the thumb of his non-throwing hand.

With Sanchez out for the beginning of OTAs, Lynch will take all of the first team reps when things get started on May 24th.

Sanchez knows he has a huge opportunity in front of him this season, and won’t allow the injury to cause him to miss significant time, because he can’t allow the Broncos to fall in love with seeing their first-round pick under center.

Anyone who saw the Broncos get to and win Super Bowl 50, knows they did so with less than stellar quarterback play. While there’s no question Lynch is viewed as the future of the team, and there’s little chance Sanchez ever changes that, his value is a little different if he ends up there as a Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Sure, the idea of Sanchez lifting a Lombardi over his head is pretty difficult to wrap your head around, but if the defense is as special as it was a year ago, it’s not entirely far-fetched. If the Broncos are winning games, there’s no chance they change course during the season and go to the rookie signal caller.

If Sanchez can just do as well as a decrepit Peyton Manning, or Brock Osweiler, who couldn’t keep the job away from the old man (yet still somehow got paid like a star), he might just be good enough to be one of the guys people bring up when they say you don’t have to have a great quarterback to win the big one!

New Bucs DC Mike Smith impressed with Jameis Winston:

While there probably isn’t a bigger Jameis Winston guy than Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter, he once had to be convinced. As the Bucs new head man has mentioned several times, he wasn’t sure what to expect from the quarterback with a larger-than-life personality, but as he and former Bucs head coach Lovie Smith have said, he’s met every expectation and has been better than expected in almost every area on and off the field.

When Koetter took the job as the Buccaneers head coach, he knew one priority of turning the team around would be fixing a defense that lacked talent and still quite possibly underperformed. Koetter knew if he was going to fix one of the most undisciplined units in football, he’d have to do that with a guy he’s worked with before whose attention to detail is his calling card in former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator and Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith.

Like others before him, it hasn’t taken long for Smith to see the potential of the team’s now second-year quarterback Jameis Winston. While he might be a defensive guru, Smith knows you need good quarterback play to win in the NFL, and he already likes what he sees out of Jameis.

“Boy, I’ll tell you what – this is a quarterback driven league and I’ve been very impressed with Jameis,” Smith said. “He’s got great size and he’s cut us up a couple of times. You guys saw it in our veteran mini-camp. I’m enjoying competing with him and have actually had a couple conversations with him about, ‘Ok, what do you see in our defense? What does our defense look like?’ Because that’s going to help us because I want to know what the quarterback is thinking we’re doing.”

Smith is just the latest example of why Winston ingratiates himself with everyone around him. He’s a football guy, so other football guys just can’t help but want to play with, or coach the guy. His attitude, work ethic and want to is infectious.

When players like Logan Mankins and Vincent Jackson, who shared a locker room with the likes of Tom Brady and Philip Rivers respectively, looked at Jameis as their unquestioned leader halfway into his rookie season, and he already has earned the respect of veteran coaches like Mike Smith, it’s a pretty good sign of how much Winston has already become a pro’s pro.

About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.