Week 1 of the 2019 NFL preseason is here, and Ezekiel Elliott still hasn’t reported to training camp. The running back is holding out for a new contract, likely one that would make him the highest-paid player at the position in league history.

According to multiple reports, Elliott wants a contract worth more than the record-setting four-year, $57.5 million deal Todd Gurley received from the Los Angeles Rams a year ago. The Cowboys have not been willing to meet Elliott’s demands, thus far.

With Elliott, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper all looking for new contracts with the Cowboys, NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported Tuesday that Dallas’ offer to each Pro Bowler would put them all among the five highest-paid players at their respective positions. Mike Garafolo later reported on NFL Network that Dallas hadn’t reached Gurley’s $14.375 million average salary with Elliott in negotiations.

ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported that Elliott is willing to sit out the season if he doesn’t get a new contract. What does that mean for the Cowboys and their best player?

The Cowboys might not want to pay Elliott a historic salary, but they are probably not going to have a choice. Expect the 24-year-old to sign a deal that makes him the highest-paid running back before Dallas starts the regular season on Sept. 8.

It was just a few months ago the Cowboys acknowledged they would have to present Elliott with an offer north of what Gurley got.

“We’ve got it budgeted that we’re going to pay Zeke a significant contract at some point. He’s right there at the top (at RB), if not the best,” Cowboys COO Stephen Jones said at the NFL Combine in February, via The Athletic. “We certainly saw what Gurley got paid, and we know that’s probably where it starts and we’ll go from there.”

Dallas’ tune has since changed in regard to what the organization is willing to pay Elliott. Jones told 96.7 KTCK The Ticket that the Cowboys weren’t going to be a market-setter in their attempt to sign Elliott, Prescott and Cooper to extensions. Owner Jerry Jones has even pointed out that teams don’t need a rushing champion—Elliott led the NFL in yards in 2016 and 2018—to win a Super Bowl.

Le’Veon Bell’s contract might have changed Dallas’ perspective. The running back signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the New York Jets in free agency, failing to surpass Gurley’s deal.

Bell is three years older than Elliott, who has been essential to Dallas’ success since he entered the league. The Cowboys are 28-12 in games that Elliott has played since the start of the 2016 season. Dallas is 4-4 when the running back doesn’t suit up.

The Cowboys have hopes of winning the Super Bowl this season. As the defending NFC East champions with half the division expected to be among the NFL’s worst teams, there is a clear path for Dallas to make a deep playoff run.

That could change if Elliott stays at home, waiting for a new contract.

Running backs aren’t valued like they once were. Paying any running back—even one as good as Elliott—close to $15 million a year would be an overpay. But it’s something Dallas will be forced to do if they hope to keep their core together for the upcoming season.

Look for the Cowboys to cave and give Elliott a record-setting deal at some point before meaningful games are played.

Ezekiel Elliott Dallas Cowboys
Running Back Ezekiel Elliott warms-up before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on September 23, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images