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NFL free agency: Andrew Norwell’s deal sets the market for a Zack Martin extension

We know what Zack Martin and his agent will probably be asking for in a new deal from Dallas.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One of the Cowboys priorities this offseason is to re-work Zack Martin’s contract. Martin is slated to play on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract which will pay him $9.3 million in 2018. That’s a cap hit the Cowboys desperately want to reduce, while also locking the best guard in the league into to a long-term deal.

Dallas and Martin tried to do this last year but could never reach an agreement. At the time, the biggest guard contract in the league was the Kevin Zeitler deal. He signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Cleveland Browns. Zeitler’s deal averaged $12 million a year.

Now with 2018 free agency happening, we have a new leader in the clubhouse for top-paid guard in the league - Andrew Norwell, soon to be a Jacksonville Jaguar.

In return, Norwell gets the biggest deal for an interior lineman in league history. His five-year, $66.5 million pact reportedly fully guarantees $30 million, which would be a hefty increase on the record set last offseason, when Kevin Zeitler got a five-year, $60 million deal with $23 million guaranteed from the Browns. It’s a reflection on how good Norwell’s 2017 campaign was, given that the Panthers tendered him at a second-round level last season as a restricted free agent and no team made a run at him.

Norwell’s deal averages $13.3 million a year, and that’s a number Martin’s representation is likely going to try and top in negotiations with the Cowboys. Obviously $13.3 million is more than Martin’s current cap hit of $9.3 million, but the Cowboys will try to structure a deal that reduces the hit in the first year and then sets it up for restructures in the following years.

BTB’s Joseph.Hatz took a shot at predicting a deal for Martin last offseason, even before Norwell’s deal, that looked like this:

It would seem at the very least that Martin will get a contract averaging somewhere in the $12.5-$13 million per year range, with at least about $30 million guaranteed. With that said, don’t be surprised if he ends up getting over $13 million per year, and perhaps even closer to $14 million, along with $35-$40 million guaranteed.

To be blunt, there is absolutely no comparison between a player like Martin and Zeitler, and I wouldn’t blame Martin and his agent if they were to take an offer of only a marginal increase over the Zeitler deal as somewhat of a slap in the face.

I’m estimating that sometime over the next six months Martin will receive a five-year, $68 million extension with $35 million guaranteed. That is left tackle money in this day and age, but given the Zeitler contract and how much more Martin has accomplished than him, I think this is the range the Cowboys will have to be in to finalize a deal.

That would put Martin at an average of $13.6 million. But the Norwell deal may push that number even higher.

Our old friend KD suggests an even bigger deal this morning, with a longer term because the Cowboys signed Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick to very long term deals.

Seven-year extension, $114 million with $40 million guaranteed.

Because it says seven years, the initial reports may get things wrong and read it as a $16.3 million per-year deal, but it’s not. It is actually an eight-year total deal, so the average annual value will be $14.25 million.

That’s a sizable difference between what Norwell just made, setting the bar for the position for the position’s best player.

We anticipate a relatively low signing bonus and first-year base salary, keeping the first year cap hit low.

The Cowboys now have the parameters of what it will take to make Zack Martin the highest-paid guard in the league. At some point this offseason, they will have to go ahead and make a deal. They need to bring down Martin’s cap number in 2018, and they also need to lock him up long-term, or else they will be resorting to placing franchise tags on him.

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