With contract nearing, Zack Martin poised to take bigger role

FRISCO, Texas -- As the Dallas Cowboys ended their stretching period Tuesday, coach Jason Garrett called Zack Martin to the front of the group to lead the team in five jumping jacks.

“He mentioned something about that,” Martin said. “It’s great to be back, seeing everyone here at the facility.”

Garrett brings a leader or one of the best players to the front of the group as something of a reward. In Martin's case, he represented both aspects.

The Cowboys did not see Martin during the nine organized team activities as he waited for the contract talks between the team and his agents to gain momentum on a long-term deal. While he continued to work out at The Star during OTAs, he did so when the players were in meetings.

Martin’s contract is not yet done. The sides are continuing to finalize the language of an extension that will make him the highest-paid guard and close to the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL.

"I want to be here in Dallas. I’ve said that from the beginning," Martin said. "I’ll stand tall on that. I want to be here. I never wanted to go anywhere else. I’m happy it looks like it’s going to get done and that will be the case."

Before OTAs began, Martin spoke with Garrett and other coaches about why he would not be attending. The Cowboys and Martin’s representatives had contract talks dating back to last season, but they never really went that far.

They started the discussions much earlier this offseason and really made progress last weekend, according to Martin, to where he felt he could attend the minicamp. Without the progress, he was not sure whether he would have shown up and could have faced a fine of $84,435.

"If you ask me, I never thought I’d be the guy holding out, not coming to things," Martin said. "That’s just the way it worked. At the end of the day I had to make a decision, as hard as it was, for me at the time. Hopefully it’ll get done, but I think I made the right decision.”

That the talks have taken this long speaks more about the process of negotiations than anything else. Martin repeatedly said he wanted to be a Cowboy for life and the Cowboys have said he has been their priority since last summer.


Martin is one of the best -- if not the best -- guards in the NFL. He has not missed a game in his career. He has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons. He was twice named a first-team All-Pro and has been named second-team All-Pro the other two seasons.

"He is a great technician. He is a really smart guy. He anticipates situations. And when he gets in bad situations he physically can recover because of the athlete that he is and the balance that he has," Garrett said. "And the other part of that is the mentality and how he fights. He is one of those guys we use as an example with our team a lot about just how he plays. He always finishes through the whistle. There is always a last shove. There is always a competitive fight right at the end of the down. I think when you put all that together -- his smarts, his technique, his athleticism, his ability to recover and then his mentality -- you get the kind of player we are talking about."

Two weeks after Jason Witten’s retirement, Martin showed up at The Star and found that his locker had been moved across the room to Witten’s spot. Garrett strategically places the team’s cornerstone pieces near the entrance and exits to the locker room.

“That was a cool little surprise, coming in here and seeing I got moved over here,” Martin said. “It’s definitely an honor.”

Witten was the Cowboys’ conscience in many respects as his career went on. Martin is entering his fifth season but has not been the vocal presence yet. That could change with not only his spot in the locker room but the impending contract.

“He certainly represents everything, the things that Witten represented over the course of 15 years,” Garrett said. “Those are the kind of guys you want on your team. Those are the kind of guys you want as the face of your program: come to work early, stay late. They do everything the right way and they play the game at a high level. So, yeah, we gave him a chance to go over there.”

Martin said he was a little "stir crazy," not taking part in OTAs. He said he was miserable not being around his teammates. Even though he is back this week, he isn’t doing everything as the Cowboys work him smartly after missing the OTAs.

But he knows soon he will be rewarded.

"Hopefully I’m here for a long time," Martin said. "I think we’ve got a ton of great leaders on the team, a ton of guys who will be here for a long time and I know I’m one of those guys."