(Editor's Note: With over 20 players set for unrestricted free agency, the Cowboys' roster is destined to look much different in 2022. Still, a large percentage of their roster is already in place, and they'll have plenty of work to do to improve last season's 12-5 record. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will evaluate those players already under contract, examining their past performance and future outlook. Today, we continue the series with guard Zack Martin.)
*The Good: *Martin returned from an injury-riddled season in 2020 to have one of his best years of his career. The entire offensive line might have taken a step backward, with Martin even admitting that after the playoff loss to the 49ers as the veteran said "we've simply got to get better." But for him personally, Martin didn't look anything but his dominant self that has put himself in the conversation as one of the very best linemen in Cowboys history. Martin was credited with just two penalties all season and only one sack allowed.
The Bad: Hmmm, let's see if we can find something here. The only real "bad" thing of Martin's 2021 season was ultimately a good thing. But him missing the Week 1 game in Tampa Bay because of Covid-19, only showed just how effective he is in the lineup. The Cowboys didn't even attempt to run the ball much inside and instead worked the perimeter. Martin changes the way the Cowboys operate and they missed him when he was out of the lineup, something they saw way too often in 2020 as well.
Best Of 2021: In Week 4 against Carolina, Martin anchored an offensive line that helped pave the way for 36 points against the previously-unbeaten Panthers. The Cowboys showed off their offensive firepower and Martin played a big role in that. The website ProFootballFocus.com graded Martin as the best overall player in the entire NFL for Week 4, giving him a 95.8 grade. Throughout the year, Martin was regularly in the Top 20 of overall grades by the website.
Contract Consideration: Martin is one of those players the Cowboys have been able to extend out over the last few years to create extra cap room. Last year his base salary was just $1.6 million and his cap charge was over $9 million even though his average per year is in the range of $14 million. So at some point, the Cowboys are going to have to start paying a higher percentage of this contract and it could start this year, when is base jumps back to $11.8 and pushes his cap figure over $20 million this year. Then again, at the age of 31, Martin hasn't shown any real signs of slowing down. The Cowboys might even attempt one more time to restructure his money to create a little more room.
What's Next: The offensive line will have a lot of changes in 2022 – with perhaps a new left guard and maybe some competition at center. Who knows about the tackles as well. But right guard? Yeah that should be the same as Martin returns for his ninth year. There has always been some chirping about his moving out to tackle if needed, something he did a couple of times in 2020. But Martin made it rather clear during this past season that he's "a right guard" so as long as he continues to earn Pro Bowls and All Pro selections, that's likely where he's going to be.