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The first Zack Martin extension was a thing of brilliance and here’s how the Cowboys can do it again

Both the Cowboys and Zack Martin can come away winners if Dallas just opened up their wallet a little bit.

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys did not select Johnny Manziel with their 2014 first-round pick. Instead, they selected a player who has since become the most consistently high-performing player on their roster. For nine seasons, Zack Martin has been manhandling would-be defenders on the offensive line as the veteran guard has played at an elite level every year he’s been in the league. He’s earned All-Pro honors eight different seasons with the lone exception being the injury-shortened 2020 season when he missed six games with a calf injury.

From the onset, it’s been a great marriage between Martin and the Cowboys as he’s been everything they could’ve hoped for. But on Wednesday, there appears to be a little discord in the marriage as it was reported that Martin was considering not reporting to camp due to being unhappy about his current contract.

Martin's last contract was signed in 2018 when he agreed to a six-year, $84 million deal with $40 million guaranteed. At the time, it was the most guaranteed money ever given to an NFL guard and made Martin the highest-paid guard in the league.

A lot has changed in five years. New deals have been signed and new players have taken turns being the highest-paid guard. In all, eight players have since jumped Martin in average salary as he now ranks ninth among his guard peers (salary figures courtesy of spotrac).


It doesn’t take a bookkeeping wizard to see that Martin has turned into quite the bargain for the Cowboys. Even at the age of 32, he remains one of the top guards in the league and it is easy to understand why he is unhappy with his current deal. The market has changed considerably and now the top guards in the league are making almost 50% more than he is.

The Cowboys knew they had a great player in Martin and took full advantage by signing him to a six-year deal. By contrast, none of the players listed above are signed to deals that long, and most of them are on three or four-year deals. Only Chris Lindstrom and Joe Thuney have deals that extend across five years. The longer the deal, the cheaper that player becomes relative to the ever-increasing going rate of players in the NFL. So, for a player of Martin’s ability, the deal just keeps getting better and better for the Cowboys.

But for Martin, it’s not so great. He continues to be excellent while the Cowboys reap the benefits. Should the Cowboys forfeit their discount by giving into Martin’s new contract demands?

Yes. Yes, they should.

The reasons for this are plentiful. First, the Cowboys absolutely must have Martin at right guard. The timing couldn’t be better for Martin because right now the Cowboys don’t have an established starter over on the other side at left guard. It’s the one spot they need to find answers during training camp and they don’t want to elevate the challenge by having to find a right guard as well. We’re not breaking any new ground by stating that this football team needs Martin along the interior offensive line.

But there is more to gain than just keeping him around. Working a new deal that would give him a pay raise sets a precedence that this team rewards excellence. Just as contract restructures are done to lower base salary when expectations don’t live up to the price (DeMarcus Lawrence), increases can be done just the same. And similar to Lawrence, both sides have to gain something for the deal to work. In Tank’s case, he received more guaranteed money and the Cowboys received a more manageable cap hit.

So, what would the Cowboys gain from doing this? If they believe Martin still has a lot left in the tank, they could work a new contract that would give him more money while tacking on a couple of extra years to the deal. Some of the money lost by paying Martin more now could be recouped by the savings from his price down the road. For example, if his average annual salary went up from $14 million to say, $17 million that would push him inside the top five paid guards, but by the time 2025 rolled around, he could once again be a bargain.

The Cowboys love Martin not just for the type of person he is, but also because his dependability has been a staple for this offense for many years. He’s as close to a sure thing as there is and unless he just suddenly starts fading into bad health, there’s no reason to believe the team wouldn’t continue to get their money’s worth from Martin. If the Cowboys give their star guard the raise he deserves while securing his services for a couple of extra years, it could end up being a win-win for both sides.

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