OXNARD, Calif. — Zack Martin is back in Oxnard.
For an offensive line that has had a bright spotlight for the first three weeks of training camp, Martin's arrival comes in a timely fashion to add a boost to a position group looking for a big jolt.
Not only does it give Mike McCarthy back his "best five" on the offensive line to protect Dak Prescott, but it also solves the biggest front office problem while making things simple for impending contract extensions with young stars.
His contract restructure includes the six-time All-Pro going from making $13.5 million in 2023 and $14 million in 2024 to making north of $18 million in each of the next two seasons. With an extension not included in the deal – just a restructure – it allows the Cowboys to continue and/or start extension negotiations with young talents such as CeeDee Lamb, Micah Parsons, Tony Pollard and others.
In evaluating the deal, it works for both sides in the ways that each needs. For Martin, he gets compensated on the level of the top guards in the league. For Jerry Jones – who said during negotiations with Martin that they need the money "to pay [Micah] Parsons" – and the front office, the money that will eventually be offered to Parsons, Lamb and others won't be impacted.
Additionally, the numbers give the Cowboys roughly $18 million of available cap space in 2023 which could be allotted for free agent additions at kicker, offensive line or other areas of need.
Now, to the football aspect.
It's been largely a struggle up front during training camp, and that continued into the first preseason game before some guys settled in as the game went on. But if the time Martin was away was spent evaluating a potential replacement at right guard and/or finding a reliable depth option at the position, it's tough to say either of those tasks were accomplished.
Getting Martin back in the building obviously allows more of a buffer to answer those questions, but it also allows the biggest player-leader to return to the position group to work towards solving those tasks.
But when it's boiled down to the facts with cap space flexibility, decreased offensive line fluidity and sticky negotiations aside, the biggest impact is simply his presence.
On a storied franchise that has seen some great protectors line up in the trenches throughout its history, the deal being struck puts one of the best to ever wear The Star back on the field for a season that now has the highest potential to reach the game's highest objective.