Forecasting an Extension for Zack Martin

Historically, Offensive Guard has been one of the least recognized positions in football. However, over the last two seasons, the Guard Market in the NFL has been “Boomin’.” Per Jason Fitzgerald’s article in March detailing Market Movement, six contracts signed by Guards in 2017 were high enough to be valued in the top 10 at the position and the top 20 average APY for Guards increased by 23% this year. The next player that will continue to contribute to the growth of the Guard Market is Dallas Cowboys Right Guard, Zack Martin.

Current Deal

Martin signed a 4 year, $8.967M deal with the Cowboys after being selected 16th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. His deal includes a 5th year team option, similar to all first round draft picks under the current collective bargaining agreement, which the Cowboys had no reluctance to exercise last March. Martin’s 5th year option, currently guaranteed for injury, becomes fully guaranteed on the 1st day of the 2018 league year and will pay out $9.341M in P5 Salary. However, when a player of Martin’s caliber has less than 2 years on his deal, it is smart for teams to start considering an extension as it prevents the player from testing the open market. The player benefits as he gains long-term financial security and transfers injury risk to the team.

Key Points

Before forecasting an extension for Martin there are a few points to consider. In determining an appropriate value for a player, teams and agents typically pull a list of comparable players from the player’s respective position. However, in Martin’s case, because he is regarded as one of the best Offensive Lineman, his comps should include Guards and Left Tackles as Left Tackles dominate the top of the Offensive Line Market. Second, the Cowboys have a precedent of signing their first round Offensive Lineman to long term, top of the market deals, exemplified by Tyron Smith’s and Travis Frederick’s extensions. Looking at their contract structures will be important in determining the appropriate structure for Martin. Lastly, ESPN’s Todd Archer reported Martin’s camp and the Cowboys halted contract talks in September and will resume again next off-season.  That being said, Martin will be only one year from free agency when negotiations resume, so the cash flow in Martin’s first new year should be, at minimum, the 2019 franchise tag number for Offensive Line, which is forecasted at approx. $14.2M. In addition, Martin’s APY should be based off the 2018 NFL Salary Cap. For the purpose of this article, I’m assuming it will grow at its average growth rate of 5.71% per year since 2011. That would bring the 2018 Salary Cap number to $176.54M.

Comps

Below is a list of recently signed deals in the Tackle and Guard market and each player’s performance 2 years leading up to his new deal:

Not only has Martin shown incredible toughness and durability as he has only missed 2.5% of snaps the last two years, but Martin has also earned 1st and 2nd Team All-Pro Recognition from the highly regarded football analytic site, Pro Football Focus. That being said, the $12M mark set by Kevin Zeitler in the Guard Market should be the floor in negotiations for Martin’s extension. The Cowboys could argue against this as Zeitler’s deal was done in Free Agency, where he had more leverage. However, Martin is regarded as the better player and, as previously mentioned, the Cowboys have set a precedent for their First Round Offensive Lineman, Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, by making them the highest paid players at their position at time of signing.

Considering the points above, I project Martin’s extension:

  • 6 Year Extension worth $84.6M in new money ($14.1M APY)
  • $38M Total Guaranteed (includes signing bonus, 2018-2019 base salaries, and $6.459M of 2020 base salary guaranteed for injury.)
  • $31.541M Guaranteed at Signing (includes signing bonus, 2018-2019 base salaries)
  • $8M Signing Bonus
  • 1st Year Cash Flow: $17.341M
  • 3 Year Cash Flow: $44.541M

The table above illustrates Martin’s key metrics against his comps. As I believe Zeitler’s $12M mark should be the floor for Martin’s negotiations, the next question would be where he fits among the three highest paid Tackles. Martin is a far better player than Okung, so it should not be a surprise for Martin to get the better deal. Then comes Trent Williams and Terron Armstead, who are also better than Okung and played at elite levels leading up to their deals. That being said, I would expect Martin’s numbers to be more in line with Williams’ and Armstead’s figures. If the Cowboys aren’t willing to sign Martin to the $14.1 APY figure that I’m projecting, Martin’s side should use the argument that a $14.1M APY would only be 7.99% of the 2018 projected cap. Williams’ and Armstead’s APY were 9.21% and 8.37% of the salary cap at time of signing. Regarding Martin’s guarantee structure, although his dollar figures are higher than most of his comps, the % of guarantees to his total contract value will be lower than his peers as that would be tradeoff for having the highest APY dollar figure. However, Offensive lineman typically have longer career spans and are more likely to play out their entire deal, so compromising with a lower % guarantee for a higher APY is the route Martin should take.

Team Impact

Now that we’ve looked at Martin’s projections, it is important to see how his numbers align with his counterparts on the Cowboys Oline.

Looking at APY as % of Cap, Martin’s 7.99% is only lower than Tyron Smith’s 9.17%. The reason Smith’s number is so high relates to his deal being team friendly as illustrated by guaranteed % and the length of the extension. That being said, Dallas had to compromise by inflating Smith’s APY. The only other outlier on the table above is La’el Collins % Guaranteed and Signing Bonus percentages. This is because Collins’ recent extension reflects what he would have approximately earned on his rookie deal had he not fallen out of the draft.

In looking at Martin’s Cap Numbers throughout the deal, his cap hit will be at its peak in 2019 at a whopping $15.8M. This could lead Dallas to restructure Martin’s deal by converting a large chunk of his P5 into a signing bonus. As a result, Dallas would free up cap space in 2019, but Martin’s Dead Money figures would increase in the later years of his deal. This would make it more difficult for Dallas to release Martin later in his career.

Final Thoughts

Since entering the league in 2014, Martin has played at a high level, consistently. His first round status, dominance in the trenches, and being one year from free agency will give Martin leverage in negotiations with Cowboys Brass. This leverage should not only be used to make Martin the highest paid Guard, but the highest paid Offensive lineman by APY. The tradeoff for Martin will be to have a lower % of his deal guaranteed. However, with Martin playing a position with a longer career span, he is more likely to play his entire deal so going for a higher APY is worth the tradeoff for lower guaranteed %. I would expect both sides to reach an extension by the beginning of the 2018 League Year.

Hardik Sanghavi graduated from DePaul University in 2016 with a major in finance and minor in accounting. During his time at DePaul, Hardik interned with ESPN Chicago and Priority Sports & Entertainment. He now works as a Commercial Underwriter in the Insurance Industry and is a guest contributor on sportsagentblog.com. You can follow him on twitter at @hardiks94.

Introducing Tender Projections For The Next League Year

With the 2017 regular season winding down interest will be rising as to how for 2018 teams can keep some players off the free agency market, and at what cost. The newly added Franchise, Transition and RFA Tenders page should help in this regard. Using contract data collected over the past five seasons, OTC should now be able to give you a reasonable estimate of what type of money (both cash and cap spending) it will take to use a franchise or transition tag on one player, and at what position. It can also estimate what type of pay Restricted Free Agents (players with expiring contracts but only exactly three accrued seasons) should expect depending on what level of compensation their team places their tender at.

These numbers are now also automatically integrated into OTC’s calculator to assist you in coordinating the placement of these tenders with other roster moves that you may anticipate a team making as it seeks to balance its cap situation and improve itself further. Please note that the calculator is not yet programmed to deal with players tagged in consecutive seasons, so for a few players (Kirk Cousins is the most obvious), the calculator will underestimate the actual cost of the placement of a tag. In these cases, simply use the “Extend” function to give that player a one year deal at the appropriate amount. (For players tagged a second time, give his previous salary a 20% increase, and for a third time, a 44% increase–in Cousins’s case, that should be $34.478 million.)

Also note that projected numbers are not yet official and are based on OTC’s estimate of a $178 million salary cap for 2018. These numbers will change accordingly if/when the official number changes.

Thoughts on Eli Manning’s Benching

I, like most others, was pretty stunned that the Giants benched Eli Manning. Not because Manning was great, because he wasn’t, but because of the situation. Eli has been the face of the Giants franchise since 2004. Whatever Eli’s shortcomings are as a QB had zero impact on the Giants this season. The Giants were a terrible team from the start. Whether it was reading their press clippings or whatever else they were a mess from day 1. So its not as if Manning was holding them back from the playoffs. Finally who are the Giants really evaluating? They don’t have Manning’s heir on the roster. Continue reading Thoughts on Eli Manning’s Benching »

Thoughts on the Jets at the Halfway Mark

With the Jets season now halfway over and the playoff chances looking dim after a surprising start, I thought it was a good time to look at the Jets and where they go from here. This has little to do with any contract related stuff and its just my usual yearly Jets assessment, so if you aren’t a Jets fan you can probably stop reading here. Continue reading Thoughts on the Jets at the Halfway Mark »

Thoughts on the Cleveland Browns

It doesn’t get much worse than what has happened in Cleveland. The team is 1-23 in their last 24 games and hasn’t had a winning season since 2007 when Derek Anderson was their quarterback and Romeo Crennel was the head coach. It’s a great fanbase but they have to beaten down by now to a level I can’t even imagine.  That probably makes it even harder to come to find any positives with the organization. A lot is being made recently of the Browns continued lack of success and approach to building their team, so I just thought I would throw my two cents in about the team as well. Continue reading Thoughts on the Cleveland Browns »

2017 NFL Efficiency Rankings: Week 7

Here are this week’s efficiency rankings for each team. For those unfamiliar the percentages represent how much above/below a team is performing in terms of points against their particular schedule.

The top team remains Kansas City, though I think its pretty clear that if we weighted things to put more emphasis on current games that they would drop out of the 1st spot. Their defense, which is struggling at times, ranks 12th in the league. Offensively they are still killing it, performing nearly 50% above expectations, but the defense is going to scare people off.

The Jaguars are riding their defense to the second spot in the NFL.  They actually rank 10th in offensive scoring performance, but that also includes scores by the defense and the good field position their defense helps them get. The hard part with the Jaguars so far has been consistency with a few stinkers thrown in.

The Saints offense, ranked 2nd overall, has put them into 3rd place which is higher than they have been in years. With an average performance from the defense this team does have a chance to make some noise and you could make a strong argument that they are the best team in the NFL now that Rodgers is down.

The Rams are similar to the Jaguars with some struggles with consistency and with a flipped script of offense and defense. The Rams defense has benefitted from their offense putting pressure on teams early, but the defense still has some issues. The Rams are flying a bit under the radar I think to the Eagles who are getting far more media attention, but the two are really close.

The Texans round out the top 5 due to their explosive ability on offense, but it is doubtful that they will stay there when you consider how poor the defense has played. It is asking a lot of a rookie QB to continue to move the ball the way he has all season long.

At the lower end of the spectrum you have the Colts, who have been the worst team all year and it’s a miracle they have won games, the Browns, who pretty much have been second worst all year, 49ers, Cardinals, and Bears. The Cardinals are a disaster when you look at their roster, the age of their team, and the big contracts. They need a miracle to turn that around.

Outside of the Colts, the team most likely to outperform its numbers is Miami. Miami did the exact same last year as one of the worst teams to ever make the playoffs. This year their defense is superior, but their offense is downright putrid. Maybe the switch to Matt Moore will help them.

As you look at the top 10 or so teams you can see why people see the league as wide open. Looking at the teams I would say 4 of them (KC, NE, Pit, and Sea) were expected to be playoff teams this year and only KC is really above expectations. The other teams expected to be really good (Atl, Dal, GB, Oak, NYG, and Den) have struggled this year. Green Bay is due to injury and Dallas and Oakland both had big games last week, but overall it has been average or below average play for those squads.

There are also a large number of mediocre teams and Id say there is a strong argument to be made that the Bills, or a similar team like the Chargers, may make the playoffs as a wildcard despite trending towards an under 9 win season. The NFC will be a bit more difficult but with the Packers trending out it there will be an opening. Enough teams this year are weak for some of the teams that look like a playoff afterthought to get on a hot streak and shoot up the rankings.

Here are the numbers for the teams.

RankTeamScoringDefenseTotalPred Wins
1KAN47.5%7.1%54.6%13.1
2JAC16.3%33.6%49.8%12.7
3NOR43.6%0.3%43.9%12.1
4LAR34.2%9.1%43.3%12.1
5HOU44.6%-7.6%37.0%11.4
6PHI30.3%0.9%31.2%10.9
7NWE27.7%3.1%30.8%10.9
8PIT4.6%22.2%26.8%10.6
9MIN-5.7%28.0%22.3%10.1
10SEA-10.9%29.0%18.1%9.8
11GNB20.6%-6.0%14.6%9.3
12WAS6.8%7.0%13.8%9.3
13BUF-8.5%16.6%8.1%8.8
14LAC-8.0%14.1%6.1%8.6
15DAL22.6%-19.0%3.6%8.3
16DET28.7%-28.3%0.4%8.0
17CAR-19.0%18.6%-0.4%8.0
18ATL-1.1%-0.7%-1.8%7.8
19OAK0.2%-3.4%-3.2%7.7
20DEN-13.7%5.4%-8.3%7.2
21CIN-25.4%12.8%-12.5%6.8
22BAL-5.2%-7.6%-12.7%6.8
23NYJ-3.3%-15.3%-18.6%6.2
24TAM14.5%-33.1%-18.6%6.2
25TEN3.3%-22.0%-18.7%6.2
26MIA-34.8%16.0%-18.7%6.3
27NYG-27.7%7.7%-20.1%6.1
28CHI-17.4%-2.7%-20.1%6.1
29ARI-34.7%-14.1%-48.7%3.4
30SFO-27.9%-24.1%-52.0%3.1
31CLE-39.7%-21.2%-60.9%2.2
32IND-26.0%-60.5%-86.5%-0.3

NFL Efficiency Ratings, Week 5

With all the teams having now played at least four games I thought it was a good time to dust off the NFL Efficiency rankings and see who gets the most bang for the buck this year. The efficiency ratings are a simple metric that measure the percentage above or below the average a team is scoring and preventing from scoring against their specific schedule. So for example the Chiefs this year are scoring 51.6% more points than expected while holding teams to 17% below their expectations for a total efficiency of 68.6%. Continue reading NFL Efficiency Ratings, Week 5 »