Column: Cowboys should call Zeke’s bluff

FILE - In this Saturday, July 27, 2019, file photo, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott talks to the media following practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Oxnard, Calif. Prescott pretends he can’t hear the question when the subject turns to a new contract for the star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, while receiver Amari Cooper steadfastly says he simply doesn’t think about what might be happening in his negotiations. Both reported to training camp on time as they prepare for the final year of their respective deals. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker, File)

Enigmatic Cowboys’ running back Zeke Elliott continues to hold out in hopes of a big pay day. He still has two years left on his deal, and while I think it’s smart of him to do this now, I also know that Dallas doesn’t have to pay him.

And they shouldn’t.

He has off-field baggage and already has a lot of tread on the tires for a 24-year old. But more important than that are the guys that will be free agents in 2020 – QB Dak Prescott, WR Amari Cooper, LB Jaylon Smith, and CB Byron Jones.

All of these guys should be paid before Elliott.

The most debated, of course, will be Prescott.

No, he’s not Patrick Mahomes, and I don’t think he’s as talented as another young quarterback in his own division, Carson Wentz, who just got his big contract.

Simply put, he’s not a superstar. What he does represent is someone who is steady, reliable, mature and who stabilized the franchise after a 2015 season that saw the Cowboys go 4-12 after Tony Romo got hurt.

And he’s only getting better.

In the modern NFL, you can’t afford to have instability at the most important position if you want to be a contender, and Dak is much better than anything the Cowboys could get right now. Paying him is easy.

As for Cooper, there have been consistency issues, but he looked rejuvenated with Dallas after being traded from Oakland. The Cowboys went 7-2 after the trade and he was great in both of their playoff games last season.

And unlike some of the other top receivers in the league, there’s no drama. You pay him before you pay Zeke.

Smith and Jones represent two valued commodities in the NFL – a sideline to sideline talent at middle linebacker and an elite cover corner. Both are young (24 and 26 respectively) and both are cornerstones of a defense that ranked sixth in the NFL in points allowed.

You pay them before you pay Zeke.

I get it, there’s no proven commodity behind him the backfield, but this offensive line is one of the best in the league, and while they might take a slight hit, their rushing attack should still be solid.

If I’m the Cowboys, I call his bluff.

Either he’ll report without a new contract and you can trade him next offseason and draft a running back, or he holds out and you potentially take the same course of action.

Beyond that, you get to see what Dak looks like without him, which is a concern that has been voiced.

The percentage play here is to stand your ground if you’re the Cowboys. But it’s Jerry Jones, so you never know.