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How Extending Zack Martin’s Contract Helps Cowboys Salary Cap

Jess Haynie

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Zack Martin

Zack Martin -- perhaps the best guard in the NFL -- presents the Dallas Cowboys with one of their biggest financial decisions of the 2018 offseason. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2019 if the Cowboys don't get a long-term extension done within the next year. But that doesn't mean the Cowboys can afford to wait.

Having played out the four years of his original rookie deal, Martin is now entering the optional fifth year that only applies to first-round picks. Teams have the right to exercise this fifth-year option and keep the player for one additional season, but not without a significant increase in the player's salary and cap hit.

In Zack Martin's case, this 2018 option year will pay him $9.3 million.

Last year, Martin's cap hit was $2.85 million.

That's a significant increase in his cap cost, which the Cowboys are not in a great position to deal with.

You've likely seen projections that the Cowboys will have roughly $18-$19 million in salary cap space going into the offseason. Thankfully, that figure already includes Martin's fifth-year increase. But Dallas could bring Martin's number down, and give themselves some more spending power, if they go ahead and get his long-term deal done now.

Travis Frederick And Zack Martin Disrespected By Pro Football Focus?

Dallas Cowboys RG Zack Martin, C Travis Frederick (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The model for this is Martin's fellow Pro Bowler, center Travis Frederick. The Cowboys signed Frederick to a long-term deal in 2016 for $56 million over six years.

Now, you may do the math there and see an average over $9 million per season. And with two years of inflation to consider, Martin's contract will likely be a little higher. So wouldn't the cap hit on his long-term deal be about the same as this one-year option? Why does it matter?


After the Cowboys extended Travis Frederick, they immediately did a contract restructure. This pushed more guaranteed money into the later part of the contract by converting salary into a signing bonus. This freed up significant cap space, lowering Frederick's 2016 cap hit to a little over $2 million.

Dallas can and should do the exact same with Zack Martin.

If they can get the long-term deal done before March, along with the immediate restructure, they could likely drop his current $9-million cap hit to somewhere around $2-3 million.

That's $6-7 million they can use to sign free agents, or perhaps put toward their efforts to re-sign defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.

The nice thing about a player like Zack Martin is that he is about as low risk as it gets. While he is 27 years old, Martin has started every game for the Cowboys since he joined the team in 2014. He rarely, if ever, appears on the injury report.

And again, he may be the best guard in all of football. Therefore, the Cowboys have every reason to get this Zack Martin situation settled immediately.

When it comes to player movement and cap management, it should be their top priority before free agency opens in March.


Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Dallas Cowboys

Don’t Forget Special Teams Value in Cowboys Roster Decisions

Jess Haynie

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C.J. Goodwin

Building a 53-man roster in the NFL is a complex formula, requiring balance between numerous positions on each side of the ball. But what often gets overlooked in our analysis as outsiders is special teams, and that's a huge factor for many of the Dallas Cowboys players hoping to make it past final cuts.

Some players have survived in the league by being just good enough at their listed positions but excelling in special teams roles. You may think of former Dallas safety Bill Bates, who was personally responsible for a special teams player being made part of the annual Pro Bowl roster. A more recent example would be Keith Davis, who was an adequate safety but a special teams ace for several seasons.

To be sure, someone is going to be on this 2019 Cowboys more for their special teams value than their actual offensive or defensive ability. Who might he, or they, be?

One candidate is veteran Cornerback C.J. Goodwin. He is considered an exceptional talent in coverage on punts, which is probably the only reason he's still in the NFL today. At age 29, Goodwin has never really emerged as a consistent contributor on defense.

Young players like Donovan Olumba or rookie Michael Jackson, if not already superior cornerbacks to Goodwin, have far more upside to keep on the roster. But

considering how little they may get on the field anyway as the fifth or sixth corners, you can see why special teams value becomes so important. It may be the only time you actually see them in the game.

If the Cowboys don't want to lose a young prospect but can't let go of Goodwin's special teams ability, it may prompt them to go long at the CB position. But that means taking a roster spot from some other position, and thus the balancing act continues.


Don't Forget About RB Jordan Chunn in the Cowboys Backfield

Dallas Cowboys RB Jordan Chunn

Another player to watch in this discussion is second-year an Running Back Jordan Chunn. He doesn't have Alfred Morris' experience or maybe Mike Weber or Darius Jackson's rushing talent, but he has been showing up on the special teams units.

Yesterday, Cowboys insider Bryan Broaddus called Chunn "a better Rod Smith" in analyzing his chances of making the roster. If you don't recall, Jaylon's older brother was a solid RB but a standout special teams player in his few years with Dallas.

As we just mentioned with the 5th/6th CB slots, the third running back is not a guy you expect to see much on offense. That will be especially true this year as Dallas will be struggling just to give rookie Tony Pollard the touches he deserves as the number-two RB.

Given that, special teams play becomes vital for the value of whoever is behind Zeke and Pollard on the depth chart. If Jordan Chunn is superior to his competition in that regard, it could negate whatever he lacks as an actual running back.

This same conversation can be had throughout the roster. It's why Noah Brown might make the team over more traditionally gifted receivers, or why a certain linebacker or safety might be more valued than others.

We make the common mistake of referring to "both sides of the ball" when we talk about football teams. There are three sides; special teams can't be underestimated. It will certainly play a part in how the Dallas Cowboys finalize their 53-man roster this season and in years to come.


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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Preseason: Wide Receivers Power Rankings

Mauricio Rodriguez

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#DALvsWAS: Michael Gallup Will Play, Value Extends Beyond Passing Game 1

When cut-down day arrives for the Dallas Cowboys, the team's decision making ability will really be put to the test once they get to the wide receiver position. The Cowboys have plenty of young talent there and choosing the players that will make the 53-man roster won't be easy. Unfortunately, you can't keep them all.

With the Cowboys offense set to take the next step in 2019 under Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore, the team has to get WR right. Since the offseason, we've seen many things from the team's wide receivers that make us wonder who's better than who and who should wear the Star once September comes around.

Today, I share with you my power rankings for the Dallas Cowboys' wide receivers.

Amari Cooper has Final Say on Trade Compensation in Cowboys Win 3

Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper

1.-3. The Absolute Locks

It's really not necessary to discuss the Cowboys' top three wide receivers. We know there is absolutely no way they fail to make the roster. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb are expected to be the team's starters. Cooper proved he can be a big-time threat as the Cowboys WR1 after many questioned his future following his struggles as an Oakland Raider.

Gallup has had an impressive offseason and preseason, building on his very solid playoff work from last January. This guy is poised for a breakout season and has even shown flashes of having WR1 talent. For now, though, he should be a great number two for Dak Prescott.

As far as Randall Cobb is concerned, he should be more than a decent slot receiver for Dallas replacing Cole Beasley.

Don't worry about the three starting wide receivers. They should be a very good unit.

4. Cedrick Wilson

I might be high on Cedrick Wilson, but I really believe he can be special for the Cowboys. I put him at number four because I believe he's the most balanced player among the other wide receivers. Before going down injured versus the San Francisco 49ers in preseason, he was having himself quite a performance, shadowing undrafted rookie Jon'Vea Johnson, who was supposed to steal the show at WR.

I liked him as a prospect coming out of Boise State last year and I still do. I believe he'll make the roster. He's also shown he could have a role as a returner on special teams.


Who Will be Cowboys' Main Punt Returner in 2019, Tavon Austin?

5. Tavon Austin

Austin didn't have a chance to prove his worth in 2018 after being out most of the season due to injury. With him returning and being in the thick of the WR battles, he'll likely have a spot on the roster. He has potential to play in the slot and steal a few snaps from Cobb while also being a threat for opposing defenses in the deep game thanks to his speed. Not to mention, he's expected to be a contributor on special teams.

6. Noah Brown

Often, I'm surprised by how many in Cowboys Nation feel about Noah Brown. However you may feel about the team's 23-year old receiver, don't expect him to be cut from the team.

We know the coaching staff values his blocking skills very much. Plus, he has upside as a receiver and could develop into a more serious weapon on offense. With the Cowboys set to carry only three tight ends, Brown is an important player for this football team.

7. Devin Smith

I expect the Cowboys to carry six receivers on their roster, so this would be where I expect the front office to start making cuts. Devin Smith has shined lately, specially against the Los Angeles Rams last Saturday when he hauled in a TD pass from Cooper Rush.

He has a chance to make the roster if he keeps turning heads, but right now, I have him in the outside looking in.

Cowboys WR Jon'Vea Johnson's Stock Drops After Preseason Opener

Dallas Cowboys WR Jon'Vea Johnson (Ashley Landis / The Dallas Morning News)

8. Jon'Vea Johnson

The undrafted rookie from Toledo was having a very strong offseason but his stock has been falling since preseason began. Unfortunately, Johnson's route running and ability to create separation aren't enough if his drop issues continue.

Hopefully, the Cowboys can keep him for the practice squad and continue to develop him because he really seems to be a special player. Right now, though, there are other guys the team should get on the team.

9. Jalen Guyton

Another undrafted rookie that made plenty of noise in the offseason. Sadly, we didn't see much from Guyton in preseason. This is another guy who could make the practice squad, but his chances of making the 53-man roster seem almost nonexistent right now.

10. Reggie Davis

Davis' chances of making the team took a huge hit when he muffed fumbled a punt versus the Rams last week. When you're fighting for those final spots, you can't make those mistakes on special teams.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Preseason: Wide Receivers Power Rankings" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys S Donovan Wilson’s Stock Continues to Rise

Matthew Lenix

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Cowboys S Donovan Wilson's Stock Continues to Rise

It's been no secret that the safety position for the Dallas Cowboys has been one of frustration in recent years. They've locked down the free safety spot with rising star Xavier Woods, however, the strong safety role hasn't found it's true ruler as of yet. Jeff Heath has started 31 of 32 games the last two seasons at strong safety but continues to be a liability in coverage and making tackles in the open field. Veteran George Iloka was brought in during free agency but still hasn't surpassed Heath as the number one. But the best attempt to shore up this particular position was made when the Cowboys took rookie Donovan Wilson in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

In the Cowboys first preseason game against the 49ers, Wilson got his first interception on the pro level. If you watch the video below, he does a fantastic job of reading the eyes of the quarterback and doesn't allow himself to be fooled when he tries to look him off. He sits on the route perfectly and creates the turnover. This is the kind of discipline you want to see from a rookie defensive back.

Tom Downey on Twitter

Rookie Donovan Wilson with the INT for the #Cowboys! Makes it a lot easier when the QB (C.J. Beathard) throws it right to you https://t.co/EIcACB6TSR

According to Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, Heath missed last weeks game against the Rams due to a neck stinger. This made his participation in practice limited for a few days and allowed Wilson to get some work with the first-team defense this week. He also split reps with Xavier Woods as the down safety in the box. A box safety's responsibility is to give support in the run game as well as jamming receivers/tight ends off the line, blitzing the quarterback and providing coverage in the flat.


Another added dimension for Wilson is that he had two years of nickel corner experience at Texas A&M. Anthony Brown is the starter at the position currently but having another guy with this skill set provides the Cowboys with the all-important position flex.

Wilson had 8 interceptions in college so he has some ball skills. His 21.5 tackles for loss at proves how effective he was in run support in the box safety role. With the help of Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard, who developed top talents like Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, Wilson could see himself with a huge role on this defense fairly quickly. So much so that I wouldn't be surprised if by seasons end he's the permanent starter at strong safety.


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