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Zack Martin Got Paid, Is DeMarcus Lawrence Next?

Zack Martin’s new contract became official last week as the four-time All-Pro received the long-term deal he’s been looking for. Per Todd Archer, his rookie fifth year option now turns into a seven-year deal for $93.41-million dollars with $40-million guaranteed (42.8%), including a $20-million dollar signing bonus.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The total deal for All-Pro right guard Zack Martin is seven years for $93.41 million and includes a $20 million signing bonus, according to a source. As Adam Schefter reported, the guaranteed money is $40 million. The Cowboys created around $3 million… https://t.co/q8ovYSiQRg

The Dallas Cowboys and Martin’s representatives worked all off-season to come up with a deal that would make Zack the highest paid guard in the NFL going into his fifth season. And as much as anyone on the team, he deserves it.

He’s started every game in his four-year career. He’s 28 years old and this contract locks him up through his prime.

With Martin’s deal done, the Dallas Cowboys front office can now turn its attention to the next wave of players that will be ready for big-time contracts.

Let’s look at who that is and what they could demand.

KD Drummond from the Cowboys Wire on USA Today had a great piece outlining what this deal means for the 2018 and 2019 salary caps moving forward. Per his math, for 2018, this deal gives the Dallas Cowboys an extra $3 million this year, leaving their cap space at a little more than $14 million.

For 2019, the Dallas Cowboys will have a projected $50-million dollars in cap space. Cap Projections courtesy of OverTheCap.com. $50 million in 2019 is far from the cap hell that everyone wants to tell you about.

Be sure to follow KD on Twitter as well as Inside The Star‘s very own Jess Haynie to keep up to date with the salary cap implications.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Dallas Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

DeMarcus Lawrence, Defensive End

Let’s start this discussion by saying that the Dallas Cowboys don’t have to do a single thing with DeMarcus Lawrence’s contract to help them on the salary cap. His cap figure is locked in at $17 million for 2018 and as noted above, the Cowboys have a little more than $14 million in space.

Zack Martin was arguably the biggest offseason priority in 2018. The other player who could make that argument was Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who the team placed their franchise tag on this off-season.

With the franchise tag in place, Lawrence wasn’t allowed to hit free agency, which would have definitely led to a bidding war for the All-Pro pass rusher’s services.

The deadline to convert the franchise tag to a long-term deal is about a month away, which gives the Dallas Cowboys front office plenty of time to get a deal done with Lawrence.

If the Dallas Cowboys were to get an extension done, with some creative structuring of the contract they could cut his salary cap figure.  If the Cowboys placed the franchise tag on him again during the 2019 offseason, which is a real possibility, his guaranteed contract would be $20.4 million.

Let’s look at Olivier Vernon’s deal as a template for what DeMarcus Lawrence could get through a contract extension:

  • In 2016, Vernon signed with the New York Giants in free agency a five-year, $85-million contract with $40-million guaranteed (47.1%) and a $20-million signing bonus.
  • His year one cap figure was $13 million. A $1.75-million base salary, $7 million as a roster bonus, and $4 million as part of his prorated signing bonus that was spread out over the life of the contract.

Vernon had only one season with more than 10 sacks when he had 11.5 in his second year as a pro, but was consistently healthy. DeMarcus Lawrence had an elite season in 2017, but has had injury struggles throughout his career. 2017 was the first time he’d started all 16 games.

If you go to OverTheCap.com and look at the guaranteed portions of contracts for the top earning 4-3 defensive ends, you’ll see that Jacksonville Jaguars DE Calais Campbell and the Cleveland Browns’ Myles Garrett are the only players that come close. Their guaranteed money is at or just over $30-million dollars.

Vernon’s deal was an above market value contract at the time, but could be the range that Lawrence and his representatives are looking at to get Tank paid.

Through the franchise tag alone, we’re talking about a minimum of $37.4-million guaranteed that could go to Lawrence over the next two years. That would be just under Vernon’s guaranteed numbers, and though Vernon’s contract was above market value, that is probably where Lawrence’s deal will have to start.

You can thank the New York Giants for paying Vernon above market value, which is probably leading to some of the contract negotiation difficulties between the Dallas Cowboys and Lawrence’s representatives.

With all of that said, here’s what I’d estimate Lawrence’s deal to look like if it were to get signed before July 16th, when franchise tags become official for the 2018 season.

5 years for $90 million, $18 million per year, with $44-million guaranteed, and a $24-million signing bonus. 

That would make him the highest paid 4-3 defensive end in NFL history, and if 2017 is any sign of future production, he’s well worth it.

That may seem like a rich contract, but considering that Zack Martin just got $40-million guaranteed to play a position that is not nearly as valued as EDGE, it makes sense that Lawrence would get more.

The Dallas Cowboys may let him play this season on the franchise tag, but that would mean they will probably have to use it again next year to try to get a long-term deal negotiated with him in the 2019 off-season.

The sooner they get a deal done with Tank, the better as his play will only drive his contract up.

Dak Prescott Weighs in on Cowboys "Dak-Friendly" Offense
Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott, Quarterback

Dak Prescott is headed for a big payday. Remember, before the final eight games of the 2017 season, Prescott had led the Cowboys to an 18-6 record over his first 24 games. His 22-10 record, which includes the offense’s late season meltdown, is still pretty impressive during a quarterback’s first two years in the NFL.

Only one quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL Merger had more wins in their first two seasons than Dak Prescott’s 22: Russell Wilson. And we know the kind of defense the Seattle Seahawks were working with at the time.

Dak Prescott had a terrible second half of 2017, as did the rest of the offense, but don’t let that cloud your judgment of what kind of player he is. Remember, in his rookie season he had the third highest passer rating behind Tom Brady and Matt Ryan at 104.9.

Over the first eight games of 2017, his passer rating was 97.9 and he had a 16:4 touchdown to interception ratio. That includes the 68.8 passer rating in Denver when the entire team fell flat in the week two destruction at the hands of the Broncos.

He’s a good quarterback and in 2018 he’ll assuage all your concerns. Here’s what I had to say about Dak Prescott’s 2018 season.

Looking to the 2019 season, the time when 2016 rookies can begin negotiating contract extensions, it’s likely Dak Prescott will get some big money to make him the Cowboys quarterback for the next 10 years.

There’s no telling how rich the deal will be at this point, but we can guess that it will be somewhere between Derek Carr’s $125 million (32% guaranteed) and Matt Ryan’s $150 million total value (63% guaranteed).

Year three for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys will be huge to determine just where that contract should fit. Best case scenario for the Cowboys is that Prescott plays lights out en route to a deep playoff run and they reward him with a very rich contract.

If 2018 creates more questions, then a 2020 franchise tag could be in Prescott’s future.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

With approximately $14 million in space this year and $50 million available to them in the 2019 salary cap, the Dallas Cowboys have the financial flexibility to hand out some long-term deals to some of their homegrown players.

As we know, this is the Dallas Cowboys’ standard operating procedure: Draft well and then pay those draftees who earn a second contract. DeMarcus Lawrence and Dak Prescott have earned that second contract. The only question is, when will they get signed?

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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