OXNARD, Calif. — A face-to-face meeting with Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones prior to the team’s preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars this past weekend helped break the impasse regarding a reworked contract with All-Pro right guard Zack Martin.
“He was great,” Martin told ESPN of Jones not long after arriving in Oxnard, California, following a three-week holdout. “We were able to have that one-on-one time, and I think that helped, just being able to talk face-to-face. I think ultimately that’s what made me feel more comfortable and how he felt more comfortable and then we started talking about this and numbers and where we eventually headed.”
Martin signed a deal that will guarantee him $36 million over the next two seasons, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, up from the $27.5 million he was set to earn in 2023 and 2024. Both years are fully guaranteed. The reworked deal takes Martin from the eighth highest paid guard to the third behind Atlanta’s Chris Lindstrom and Indianapolis’ Quenton Nelson, who reset the market at $20.5 and $20 million, respectively.
Zack Martin has earned first-team All-Pro honors six times in his career, tied for the third most in Cowboys franchise history. The others with six first-team All-Pro selections are Hall of Famers.
Martin was fined $50,000 for his absence, which cannot be rescinded or waived by the team. But he was willing to sit out for what Schefter called his belief that he was “woefully underpaid relative to the market.”
“I just think I’ve been here a long time. I’ve accomplished some great things but just felt like where I was in the market that it’s something that had been deserved and felt strongly about it,” said Martin, who praised his agent, R.J. Gonser. “Obviously it took a little time, but I’m super grateful to the Joneses. Once we started talking and having that connection we were able to figure something out that worked for both of us.”
At the start of training camp, Jones was resolute that the Cowboys did not need to rework Martin’s contract, adding that they needed the money to sign players like Micah Parsons in the future.
“Someone talked to me and was like, ‘When you step in the ring, you’ve got to be ready for whatever,'” Martin said. “I didn’t ever take it personal. He’s got to say what he’s got to say. I tried to stay quiet during it and never wanted this to be a media back and forth. I think he appreciated that.”
A voidable year was added to Martin’s contract for salary cap reasons, but he remains signed through 2024.
“I never wanted to play anywhere else,” Martin said. “And that’s when I’d get some anxiety or have a rough day during this thinking about that. That’s what it came down to: I don’t want to play anywhere else. I don’t want to play for another organization. I don’t want to move my family and was just hoping that something would get done, and luckily we were able to get together and figure it out.”
Martin, who turns 33 in November, has made the Pro Bowl in eight of his nine years and has been named an All-Pro six times as he chases Larry Allen for the designation as best offensive lineman in team history. He said he will take it “year by year” after 2024 to decide how much longer he’ll play.
Martin has been working out with private offensive line trainer Duke Manyweather of OL Masterminds at Sports Academy at The Star, next to the Cowboys’ practice facility. The Cowboys will work Martin, who missed a good portion of the offseason program with a calf injury, slowly into practice even though starters are not expected to play in any of the preseason games.
The Cowboys’ season starts Sept. 10, at the New York Giants.
“Sounds like I’ll get some time to get my legs underneath me, working in individuals, get some condition and work my way into it,” Martin said. “We’ll see. I feel pretty confident in the shape I’m in but nothing mimics football shape than actually playing football. Hopefully a week, two weeks I’ll start feeling good and start feeling like I’m ready to rock.”