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How the Zack Martin contract holdout saga is likely to unfold for the Cowboys

It won’t be much longer and we’ll finally have answers.

Washington Commanders v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are without their All-Pro right guard as Zack Martin has not reported to training camp. You have to go back to 2018 when the veteran guard was absent from team activities and refused to participate in OTA’s amidst another contract holdout situation. Martin had just one year left on his rookie deal (the fifth-year option the team exercised), but he wanted long-term security. Ultimately, he got what he wanted as he signed a new six-year contract worth $84 million just 18 days after the holdout began. It made Martin the top-paid guard in the NFL.

Fast forward five years and here we are again. This time, instead of long-term security, Martin wants adequate compensation. Over time, the going rate of top guard play has increased while his salary has remained relatively the same. Martin has been the team’s most stalwart contributor in the trenches over the last nine seasons and has shown no signs of slowing down, so, understandably, he wants to be paid accordingly. Yet here we are. The Cowboys are without one of their top players and Martin continues to rack up fines to the tune of $50,000 per missed practice.

How will all of this end, and when should we expect that to happen?

The resolution could come sooner than expected as both sides have a lot to lose should a Martin-less Cowboys team continue into the regular season. On the surface, both seem to be holding their breath pretty long. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks a big game and to his credit, the front office has been able to get most of what they want when the rubber meets the road. He may come across as insensitive or even outright jaded at times when he so bluntly expresses his feelings to the media, but the reality is that he is trying to preserve as many financial resources as he can so they can continue to afford other talents so the roster stays competitive. Talent that includes enough cap resources to cover the costs of moves like Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore and extensions like Donovan Wilson and Malik Hooker. These are moves most of the fan base applauds, but they wouldn’t be possible if the front office wasn’t so careful with how they spread out the money.

For Martin, this is the right time for him to take a stand. He’s still playing at a high level so his stock price is high right now. He’ll also be 33 years old come November and the likeliness of him to continue such high-level play is only going to get harder going forward. This is his time to cash in on his services.

But for him to expect the Cowboys to just open up their pocketbook and offer up a pay raise while still having two more years left on his contract means he needs to give the team a reason to make a deal and that reason should include tacking on a couple more years to his current deal. Adding two more years worth $20 million per season would change his average annual salary from $14 million (over two years) to $17 million (over four years). A move like this solves the problem. Martin gets more compensation and the Cowboys get a quality producer for even longer. It’s a win-win.

While the thought of not having Martin in camp is unsettling, this is and never has been anything that warrants great concern. A resolution is going to happen, it’s just a matter of what the financial details end up being and when new ink is spilled. In the meantime, the Cowboys will continue to use this as an opportunity to give other guys a chance and evaluate players like Josh Ball, Matt Farniok, and UDFA rookie T.J. Bass. Eventually, Martin will return to the field with a slightly fatter wallet and a longer commitment to the team, and all of this will seem like a whole lot of nothing.

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