FRISCO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — After being missed on the practice field for three weeks of organized team activities, Zack Martin is practicing with the Dallas Cowboys again as the two-time All-Pro closes in on a contract that’s expected to make him the highest-paid guard in the NFL.
Martin skipped all nine voluntary offseason workouts while negotiations that started about a year ago kept dragging. But he was on the field after the club and his representatives got close on a deal over the weekend.
The former Notre Dame standout said he wasn’t sure if he would have attended the start of mandatory minicamp Tuesday without the progress in negotiations.
The 27-year-old Martin was set to make $9.3 million in the final year of his rookie deal. Martin’s new contract is expected to surpass the $13.3 million annual average in the $66.5 million, five-year contract that Jacksonville’s Andrew Norwell signed in March.
Martin was the 16th overall pick in 2014 and was an All-Pro as a rookie when DeMarco Murray led the NFL in rushing for the NFC East champions. He repeated the feat two years later when rookie Ezekiel Elliott was the rushing leader for another division champion.
Assuming the Martin deal gets done, the Cowboys will have their top three offensive linemen — all first-round picks with multiple Pro Bowls — locked up well past 2020. Left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick are the others.
Smith, who signed an extension in 2014, and Frederick (2016) were the highest-paid at their positions at the time, and are still in the top five. Martin figures he’ll be on a similar track once he goes to the top of the list.
“It’s something obviously my agents and I, we were shooting for, so it’s a huge honor,” Martin said. “That’ll probably get beat by someone whenever the next one signs, but that’s how it works. Whenever we lock this thing up, very excited to get it over with and put it in the past.”
For head coach Jason Garrett, it’s the strongest sign of stability in the rebuilding of a line that started before his first full season as head coach, when the Cowboys drafted Smith ninth overall in 2011.
“It took us a while to rebuild it the way we wanted to rebuild it,” Garrett said. “We reinforced that idea that you have to rebuild the offensive and defensive lines in order to allow your skill players to have some success.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)