The roster turnover is already underway. Free agency has now begun and the 2017 NFL Draft isn’t far away. Over the next few weeks, the Cowboys will lose and replace a sizable portion of their roster.
For every new face, however, there are dozens of familiar ones who will return to begin a new campaign. From established veterans to second-year players, the vast majority of the Cowboys’ 2017 team is already on the roster. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they’ve been and where they’re going.
Today we’ll continue the series with guard Zack Martin.
What’s Been Good: This might take awhile. What’s been good about Zack Martin in his three years with the team? Just about everything. That’s really the only answer. In Cowboys history, there haven’t been many players who have come close to matching the accomplishments Martin has collected in just three seasons. In fact, Martin is one of 46 players in the Super Bowl era to earn three Pro Bowls in his first three seasons. No other Cowboys player has done that in that timeframe. Even better, Martin is earning All-Pro selections as well, staking his claim as one of the best players – not just offensive linemen – in all of football. He’s technically sound, he’s strong, he’s agile, he’s aware of his assignment, he plays with leverage, and he stays calm but with a mean streak at times. Zack Martin is as good as it gets.
What’s Been Bad: While his position coach Frank Pollack, or perhaps even Martin himself, would probably disagree, there really hasn’t been anything to describe Martin as “bad” during his first three seasons. That doesn’t mean he can’t and won’t improve. And yeah, there have been some plays where he hasn’t won the 1-on-1 battle (although it’s pretty few and far between). Martin struggled somewhat with penalties in 2015 with a team-high 11, but made huge strides in that area last year. In 2016, Martin had just two penalties for 15 yards, as there were 20 other Cowboys who committed more penalties.
2016 Highlight: There were many highlights for Martin and this offensive line in 2016. They won most of their battles up front, but it’s hard not to pinpoint a couple during the middle of the year. Twice they faced what was considered to be top-tier run defenses and the Cowboys mauled both the Packers at Lambeau Field and the Bengals at home. But in a midseason matchup in Pittsburgh, Martin and the Cowboys’ O-line paved the way for two Ezekiel Elliott touchdowns in the last two minutes, including the game-winner in the final seconds.
What’s Next: For Martin, it’s not really a matter of if, but when. As in, when will he become the NFL’s highest-paid guard? Kevin Zeitler currently received a deal to pay him $12 million a season but expect Martin’s contract to be higher. He still has the 2017 season and then perhaps a fifth-year option, but it’s not likely the Cowboys will wait that long. By then, he’ll probably have four to five Pro Bowls and All-Pros and the price tag will only go up. Don’t be surprised if the Cowboys get a new deal for Martin in training camp or the preseason, as they did with both Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick in the last two years.