The Dallas Cowboys are in the latter stages of making Zack Martin the highest-paid guard in the NFL. A long-term deal hasn’t been finalized, but all signs point toward it getting done sooner than later.
The most telling? Martin ending his holdout and attending the first day of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.
"It was tough [holding out]," Martin said. "If you would’ve asked me, I never would’ve thought I’d be the guy holding out and not coming to things. But that’s just kind of the way it worked and, at the end of the day, I had to make a decision. As hard as it was, it was best for me at the time. Hopefully it gets done."
The Cowboys and Martin are negotiating terms of a reported six-year deal. The dollar amount isn’t known yet, but it will surpass the five-year, $66.5 million with $30 million fully guaranteed that Andrew Norwell received from Jacksonville.
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Norwell received that deal on the free agent market; so did Norwell’s predecessor of the ‘highest-paid guard’ label, Cleveland’s Kevin Zeitler (five-year, $60 million with $23 million guaranteed).
Martin could play out the 2018 season on his fifth-year option that would pay him $9.3 million and then test the free agent market, assuming the Cowboys wouldn’t use a franchise tag on him.
Did testing the free agent market factor into Martin’s decision?
"No, not at all. I want to be here in Dallas,” Martin said. “I’ve said that from the beginning and I’ll stand tall on that that I want to be here in Dallas. I never wanted to go anywhere else. I’m happy that it looks like it’ll get done and that’ll be the case."
Martin will join a long list of Cowboys who opted to sign a long-term deal with the organization before hitting the free agent market such as Travis Frederick, Tyron Smith and Sean Lee.
"It’s from the standpoint we love being here, we love playing for the Cowboys,” Lee said. “The opportunity that the Jones family has given us is something that we cherish and we want to win a championship here. When you’re blessed to be able to make a certain amount of money that a lot of us never thought we’d make, you jump on that opportunity."
Martin certainly has earned whatever the final number will be on his extension.
The Cowboys’ 2014 first-round pick has been named to the Pro Bowl in his first four professional seasons. He garnered first-team All-Pro honors in 2014 and 2016 and second-team honors in 2015 and 2017.
Martin is coming off one of his best seasons, too, being called for no penalties and giving up just one sack last season.
For his career, Martin has been flagged 13 times and given up seven sacks as he’s started 64 of a possible 64 regular-season games.
“He’s a sneaky good athlete," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "I say that with all due respect cause o-linemen work in a phone booth when they’re in there. But there’s a lot of things he can do. He’s very, very agile. He can move back and forth, side to side. He’s very flexible. He’s had some not perfect blocks that no one noticed weren’t perfect because he has the ability to recover and do that.
"His all-around game is about as good as there is in the league."