Zack Martin

Cowboys Restructure Dak Prescott’s Deal

Entering Friday more than $16MM over the cap, the Cowboys have moved well under the 2023 salary ceiling. They restructured the contracts of Dak Prescott and Zack Martin, Tom Pelissero of tweets.

These revisions cleared approximately $30MM in cap space for the Cowboys, who recently allocated $10.1MM to a Tony Pollard franchise tag. The conversion involved around $29MM of Prescott’s 2023 base salary shifting to a signing bonus, Todd Archer of tweets. This restructure will either bump up Prescott’s 2024 cap number or add more void years to his deal, but it will drop the quarterback’s 2023 cap figure from a historically high place. Prescott’s 2024 number now comes in at around $59MM, Archer tweets. That number will obviously be untenable for the team.

Prescott was set to carry a $49.13MM cap number this year. No player had previously played a season with a cap hit higher than $46MM, though Deshaun Watson is currently on track to do so. The Browns are considering restructuring their quarterback’s fully guaranteed deal, and Prescott’s restructure will only lead to more talk of another extension coming to pass.

Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones said a second Prescott extension is likely to happen. The Cowboys have Dak signed on his $40MM-per-year contract for two more seasons. Prior to Friday’s restructure, the QB was set to carry a $52.1MM cap hit in 2024. With that number venturing deeper into uncharted waters via today’s transaction, Prescott extension talk figures to accelerate. The parties are not believed to have entered discussions about a new deal, but Prescott said recently he looks forward to an extension “when that time comes.”

This restructure will increase Prescott’s leverage, as Dallas will be eager to reduce his 2024 cap number. Daniel Jones‘ $40MM-per-year deal and the potential re-ups for Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert — and whatever happens with Lamar Jackson this year — also will work in Prescott’s favor. When Prescott and the Cowboys negotiated up until the 2020 franchise tag extension deadline, a deal in the $35MM-AAV range was rumored. It ended up being pushed to $40MM ahead of the 2021 March tag deadline. Once Hurts, Burrow and Herbert sign, the next round of Prescott talks could center around a number beginning with a 5.

I don’t want to dare do this to Dak or me or anybody,” Jerry Jones said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill. “But I think just as [Tom] Brady became better and better and more impactful on how they won as he got into his career, I think that really [Dak] has those qualities. I think he can get better.

Martin’s $14MM-per-year contract runs through 2024. The team is also in talks with Tyron Smith about a potential reworking, Jeremy Fowler of tweets. The team is trying to reduce Smith’s $17.6MM cap number. Attached to the NFL’s longest-running contract, Dallas’ left tackle is finally near the end of that eight-year pact. It expires after the 2023 season. Two void years are already on Smith’s contract, limiting the Cowboys’ options with their 12-year tackle. The team is trying to keep Smith in the fold for a 13th season.

Cowboys Rework Prescott, Martin Deals

The Cowboys have restructured quarterback Dak Prescott‘s contract to create roughly $15MM in cap space, per a club announcement. Meanwhile, they’ve also reworked the contract of guard Zack Martin to free up an extra ~$7MM in room. Between the two moves, the Cowboys have an additional $22MM to work with in advance of free agency. 

[RELATED: Cowboys Franchise Tag Schultz]

This appears to be a simple restructuring — one that converts 2022 base salary into a signing bonus. Prescott has done this before, agreeing to tweak his contract last year to give Dallas an extra $5MM in space.

Injuries limited Prescott to just five games in 2020, but he managed to play in 16 games last year. He finished the year with an 11-5 record in his starts with 4,449 yards and 37 touchdowns against ten interceptions. That marked the best TD% of his career to date (6.2). Statistically, that’s what the Cowboys were hoping for when they inked him to a four-year, $160MM extension in March of ’21. His contract — which made him the league’s second-ever $40MM/year player — remains largely the same after today’s adjustment.

Martin, a seven-time Pro Bowler, missed six regular season games in 2020 with a calf injury. In 2021, he bounced back strong with 16 starts and yet another All-Pro nod.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/13/21

Today’s minor moves:

Carolina Panthers

Dallas Cowboys

Las Vegas Raiders

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Cowboys Re-Sign Bryan Anger

The Cowboys have re-signed Bryan Anger, per a club announcement. Anger was dropped as a part of the Cowboys’ final cuts but they did not sign another punter to replace him.

Anger spent 2019 and 2020 with the Texans, where he cleared 46 yards per punt in each campaign. In March, Houston cleared his contract from the books to save $2MM against the cap. Anger has also spent time with the Buccaneers and Jaguars, but he’s perhaps best known for being a punter that was drafted in the third round. The Cowboys inked him to a one-year deal in April, putting him in competition with Hunter Niswander for the job.

The Cowboys won’t have to make any additional cuts since right guard Zack Martin and offensive lineman Brandon Knight recently landed on the COVID-19 reserve list.

Cowboys’ Zack Martin Placed On COVID List

Cowboys guard Zack Martin has been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, per a club announcement. That means Martin is a no-go for Thursday night’s season opener against the Buccaneers and possibly longer, depending on when he clears protocol.

[RELATED: Cowboys Out On Cam Newton]

Scores of players were sidelined by positive tests last year, but Martin is the first NFL player to be ruled out of a game in 2021. If Martin is vaccinated, he could be eligible to return after two negative test results. However, if he’s not vaccinated, he will be required to keep his distance for a minimum of ten days.

Martin, a six-time Pro Bowler, missed six regular season games last year with a calf injury. The Cowboys are counting on his availability, especially with La’el Collins‘ early season status in limbo. Without Martin, the Cowboys will likely slot Connor McGovern into the starting lineup. Fortunately, they’ll have Connor Williams on the opposite side — he was just recently cleared from his own COVID-19 list stint.

In other Cowboys news, it doesn’t sound like Cam Newton will be with Dallas on Thursday either. Despite speculation to the contrary, they’re not going to pursue the recently released Patriots quarterback. Ditto for the Washington Football Team — they’re ready to roll with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke, and Kyle Allen.

Contract Restructures: Panthers, Cowboys, Giants, Saints, Eagles, Steelers

It’s that time of year when teams are frantically maneuvering ahead of free agency. Due to the cap falling because of COVID-19, things are even more hectic than ever. We’ve seen a whole bunch of contract restructures come in, and there will be a whole lot more. Let’s catch you up on the latest batch and their financial implications:

  • The Panthers restructured Christian McCaffrey‘s contract recently, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network tweets. They converted $7MM of his $8MM base salary into a signing bonus, which freed up about $5.6MM in cap space for 2021. Almost a year ago McCaffrey signed his record-breaking extension that has him locked up through the 2025 season.
  • The Cowboys have had a busy week with Dak Prescott‘s massive extension now in the books, and they made a trio of moves to help clear some space. Dallas restructured the deals of Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, and La’el Collins, a source told Todd Archer of The reworking of the three offensive linemen’s contracts cleared up about $17MM in cap space for Jerry Jones. As Archer notes, these moves have now gotten Dallas under the cap for 2021.
  • The Giants just cut top offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler as they look to clear cap space to keep guys like defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson. The Zeitler release isn’t the only shuffling they’re doing, as they also restructured the contract of tight end Levine Toilolo, and Jordan Raanan of tweeted the details. Rather than a procedural restructure like you see with star players, Toilolo actually took a pay-cut to stay with the team. He had been scheduled to make $2.95MM this year but agreed to reduce that to $1.6MM, saving the Giants north of $1MM against the cap.
  • We’ve got four other restructures to pass along, courtesy of this tweet from Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The Saints restructured the deals of safety Malcolm Jenkins to save $3.4MM and offensive lineman Andrus Peat to save $6MM. New Orleans has the worst cap situation in the league, and they desperately needed moves like this to do things like franchise tag safety Marcus Williams.
  • The Eagles saved $2.4MM by reworking the deal of offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo. Philly is right up there with New Orleans in terms of bad cap situations, so GM Howie Roseman is likely far from done here.
  • The Steelers saved $880K by adjusting fullback Derek Watt‘s contract. Not exactly front page news here, but it should shore up Watt’s spot on the 2021 roster. T.J. and J.J.’s brother signed a three-year, $9.75MM pact last offseason.

Cowboys Activate G Zack Martin From IR

Having re-emerged from 3-9 to remain in contention for the NFC East title, the Cowboys could have their perennial All-Pro guard back if they make the playoffs.

The team activated Zack Martin off IR on Saturday, after reopening his 21-day activation window earlier this week. But the seventh-year standout is not yet ready to return. Martin will not travel with the Cowboys for their Week 17 game against the Giants, but Jerry Jones said a postseason return is in play.

In the future, we could push it and it would give us a dramatic upgrade and it really is the reason for a real optimistic thought about what happens if we could get in the playoffs,” Jones said during an interview with 105.3 The Fan (via the Dallas Morning News). “It’s a real, valid, tangible thing to hang your hat on.”

Martin has missed the past four games with a calf injury, one that was set to end his season. But the Cowboys will carry the six-time Pro Bowler on their active roster for Week 17 and perhaps beyond. A four-time first-team All-Pro, Martin has seen time at tackle this season as well. The Cowboys are already down Tyron Smith and La’el Collins for the season, but Martin’s return would be an obvious boon for their chances at a playoff upset — if they are to qualify.

The team has won three straight games to move into this position. A Cowboys win over the Giants and an Eagles win over Washington would secure Dallas an unlikely NFC East title.

Cowboys’ Zack Martin Done For Year

The Cowboys have placed guard Zack Martin on injured reserve with a calf injury. The All-Pro guard must be shelved for at least three games and this could very well mark the end of his season. 

In the dreadful NFC East, the playoffs are still possible for the 3-8 Cowboys. Their late-November loss to the Washington Football Team didn’t help matters, but they could still theoretically leapfrog the first-place Giants (5-7) and the rest of the division. They’ll have their work cut out for them on Tuesday night against the Ravens, when undrafted lineman Terence Steele is expected to start in his place.

Martin has done his best work on the interior, but Steele’s poor play forced the Cowboys to reshuffle the front five a few weeks back. Before they made the swap on Nov. 22, Steele ranked as the worst offensive tackle out of 78 qualified players this season, per Pro Football Focus’ metrics.

The Cowboys will also be without cornerback Anthony Brown and safety Donovan Wilson as they look to upset Baltimore. A loss — even in the NFC East — would almost certainly take them out of the postseason conversation.

Cowboys’ Zack Martin, Cam Erving To Miss Time

More bad news for the 3-8 Cowboys. On Friday, head coach Mike McCarthy announced that offensive linemen Zack Martin (calf) and Cam Erving (knee) will miss multiple weeks. 

Both players were injured during the Cowboys’ blowout loss to the Washington Football Team on Thursday. Martin has been playing through the calf injury for weeks and aggravated it while on the field. Erving, meanwhile, was forced out on the Cowboys’ first drive of the game.

Even in the woeful NFC East, the Cowboys aren’t likely to see the playoffs this year. Even if the linemen can return before the year is through, the Cowboys might keep them off the field as a precaution. Terence Steele took over for Martin while Brandon Knight subbed in for Erving — they’ll likely be first-string for the time being.

On paper, the Cowboys were set to return one of the league’s very best offensive lines. Unfortunately, injuries to left tackle Tyron Smith, right tackle La’el Collins, and center Tyler Biadasz have decimated the unit. Biadasz may come off of IR in a few weeks but, similar to Martin and Erving, the Cowboys will have to weigh the risk vs. the limited reward.

Cowboys To Start Zack Martin At RT

The Cowboys’ offensive line has been hit hard by injury this year, which is one of the many reasons why the team has limped to a 2-7 start. Fans and pundits alike have called for Dallas to kick stud right guard Zack Martin out to right tackle to help stabilize the unit, and head coach Mike McCarthy has finally seen the light.

As Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network was first to report, Martin will start at RT today for the Cowboys’ matchup with the Vikings (Twitter link). That will force rookie Terence Steele, who has started all nine games for the club this year, to the bench. Though it might be expected for a first-year UDFA, Steele has appeared to be in over his head, and Pro Football Focus ranks him as the worst offensive tackle out of 78 qualified players this season.

So, as Jon Machota of The Athletic tweets, the team will line up Cameron Erving at LT, Connor Williams at LG, Joe Looney at C, and Connor McGovern at RG. This will mark McGovern’s second start of his career.

Despite the Cowboys’ poor record, the club still has a shot to win the incredible-as-it-is-inept NFC East. Backup QB Andy Dalton, who has dealt with a concussion and COVID-19 in the past few weeks, will return to the field this afternoon in a must-win contest, and McCarthy — three weeks after dismissing a Martin move to RT as “fantasy football nonsense” (Twitter link via Machota) — will shake up Dalton’s protection.

As Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News observes, this will be the first time since December 2013 — Martin’s senior season at Notre Dame — that Martin will get a start at tackle (Twitter link).