This Dallas Cowboys player didn’t receive much press after the team’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday, but his play was near perfect.
During the 2014 NFL Draft, many Dallas Cowboys fans were split about which prospect America’s Team should take with their first round selection. The Cowboys wanted Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier. But the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Shazier 15th overall, one selection before Dallas’ pick. In fact, the talented young linebacker’s agent was on the phone with the Cowboys when the Steelers snatched him out of their grasp.
So, it was on to plan “B” for the Cowboys. That was to select Notre Dame guard Zack Martin. But their was one very large monkey wrench thrown into that decision when Dallas’ number was called. And it’s name was Johnny Football.
Texas A&M Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel had unexpectedly fallen in the draft. High on the Cowboys’ draft board, and a favorite of owner and general manager Jerry Jones, Manziel could have easily been Dallas’ future of the franchise under center for the next decade.
With Jones ready to turn in the card with the young quarterback’s name on it, his son Stephen and others in the Cowboys War Room were able to convince the gregarious owner to take the safe bet and select Martin instead. It was a decision the elder Jones was afraid he’d regret for the rest of his life. Ended up, he wouldn’t feel that way for very long.
For Cowboys fans, Martin and Manziel’s careers will be forever tied together because of this event. Where one has had unbelievable highs, the other tremendous lows. And for Dallas, vindication.
By the end of their rookie seasons, it would be clear that the Cowboys made the right selection. Martin would be invited to his first Pro Bowl, help led the Dallas to a 12-4 record and be the only rookie named a first team All-Pro.
Manziel wouldn’t get his first start with the Cleveland Browns, who selected him 22nd overall, until Week 15 of that season. And when he did play, Johnny Football looked nothing like the player that dominated the SEC.
Three years later, Martin has been to two Pro Bowls and is considered one of, if not, the best player at his position. Manziel is now out of the league. The Cowboys even had a chance to sign the troubled, but talented quarterback…but they passed.
As for Martin and the Cowboys this season, the 25-year old offensive guard is only getting better. In Sunday’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Martin was Dallas’ unsung hero. According to one NFL Insider, he was perfect.
"“The Cowboys picked up a big road win thanks in part to the play of their trio of interior linemen led by [Zack] Martin, the third-year guard from Notre Dame,” wrote longtime NFL writer Peter King on his site the MMQB.com. “Martin didn’t allow a single pressure on Dak Prescott on 38 pass-block snaps. Martin’s biggest impact came in creating huge holes for Ezekiel Elliott to run through.”"
With two of the Cowboys’ big three Pro Bowl offensive lineman signed to long term contracts, Martin is the next in-line. And he’ll likely be the most expensive. Currently Martin is in the third year of his rookie deal, which means he wouldn’t become a free agent until 2018.
As a first round selection, Dallas could also pick up Martin’s fifth-year option to extend that contract. But chances are, the Cowboys would like to sign the talented young lineman to an extension before then.
How much is Martin in-line to make potentially? According to Spotrac.com, the highest paid offensive guard in the league is the Oakland Raiders’ Kelechi Osemele. The 27-year old free agent from the Baltimore Ravens signed a five-year, $58.5 million contract with the Raiders in March.
According to Pro Football Focus, Martin is the second best player at his position so far this season. While Osemele is ranked six slots lower at eighth overall. It’s presumable Zack’s possible contract extension would end up being much larger.