Zack Martin, Cowboys discussing contract extension

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Today's Cowboys have forged their reputation on offense with a bruising, clock-chewing ground game that thrives behind the strength of the league's top line.

Keeping that gang of blockers together won't come cheap for Dallas -- especially in the case of All-Pro guard Zack Martin.

"It's going to be a big one when they get it done," NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport said Wednesday on Inside Training Camp Live about an extension for the star lineman, noting: "... The Cowboys would like a deal, Zack Martin would like a deal. It's just a matter of them getting together and finalizing this."

The sides aren't close today, "though they are working on it," per Rapoport, with "it" being an extension that would make the 26-year-old "the highest-paid guard in the NFL or very, very close to that."

The Browns transformed Kevin Zeitler into the game's richest guard in March with a five-year contract worth $12 million per season. The expectation is that Martin "goes past that," with Rapoport saying "it's really just a question of (will) they get the deal done by the time the season starts or do they have to wait another year?"

Re-signing Martin amounts to a comprehensive no-brainer for the Cowboys. An All-Pro in each of his three NFL seasons, the mauling guard has never missed a start and rarely meets a defender he can't handle, with one former team scout saying: "If he gets his hands inside on you, you're dead."

It was just last August when Dallas signed center Travis Frederick to a six-year, $56.4 million deal, while stalwart left tackle Tyron Smith is around long-term after the 10-year, $109 million deal he inked in 2014. With right tackle La'el Collins also under lock and key through 2019, Martin becomes the obvious target for a big-money contract that will keep him around for years to come, which is simply terrible news for the rest of the NFC East.

Here's what else we learned during Wednesday's training camp action:

Transaction Wire


1. The Falcons made Devonta Freeman the highest-paid running back league-wide with a five-year, $41.25 million extension packed with $22 million in guarantees, per NFL Network's Michael Silver. Running through 2022, the deal sets the table for Freeman to spend his entire career in a Falcons jersey. His pairing with the versatile Tevin Coleman forms one of the league's most dangerous -- and fun-to-watch -- backfield combinations, but runners have barely moved an inch when it comes to cashing in:

2. What about that punter dough? Not a lot to go around, but the Cowboys signed booter Chris Jones to a four-year, $8.7 million deal with $4.5 million in guarantees, per Rapoport.

3. Less than five months after swinging a trade with the Ravens for Jeremy Zuttah, the 49ers on Wednesday cut bait with the 31-year-old offensive lineman. Failing to crack the starting lineup in San Francisco, it's fair to wonder if Zuttah could get a look-see with the banged-up Chargers or maybe even reunite with the Ravens.

Enter Big Zebra


A banner day for the refs!

The league announced plans on Wednesday to hire up to 24 full-time game officials for the 2017 season. Said refs will be mined from the NFL's current lineup of 124 paid crew. Bottom line: This is excellent news for football fans, especially when we reflect upon the hideous, disaster-prone zebra lockout of 2012.

Odds and Ends


1. With Trevor Siemian set to start Thursday's preseason opener against the Bears, the Broncos went out of their way to scorch from-the-wilderness whispers that Denver was secretly pursuing the services of Bengals backup AJ McCarron:

Besides, Siemian has surged in recent practice sessions and told reporters this week that he's finally hitting stride in his battle with second-year arm Paxton Lynch, saying: "I can't tell exactly when, but probably a week or so (ago) I just kind of felt a little more comfortable, like things were clicking for me and I got a big-picture thought of how we're trying to attack scheme and defenses."

2. The vastly unlucky Chargers received a much-needed dose of good fortune this week as first-round wideout Mike Williams reached a checkpoint in his recovery from a herniated disc. "He's back on the grass. He's running. He's doing well," coach Anthony Lynn said of the rookie, who injured his back on the first day of rookie minicamp in May.

3. Bruce Arians continues to water his coaching tree, choosing to have quarterback-turned-intern-turned-assistant Byron Leftwich call plays for the Cardinals in Saturday's clash with the Raiders. As the club's quarterbacks aide, Leftwich has drawn high praise from Carson Palmer and triggered Arians to once say: "He'll be a head coach early and fast."

Meanwhile:

4. After absorbing a raucous 26 sacks over seven starts as a rookie, Jared Goff wants you to know that he isn't afraid of getting hit.

"I'm more afraid that people will be like, 'He's a little (expletive),' than I am of truly getting hit," Goff told Bleacher Report's Tyler Dunne. "So that's what drives me to be like, 'I'm fine.' That mentality is what keeps me in the game."

Journo Corner


Let's find out what's on the mind of fellow Around The NFL scribes Kevin Patra and Conor Orr, who spent Wednesday grinding out news like a pair of workhorses:

FROM PATRA: In this space, we've mostly ignored the left tackle battle in Detroit. No NFC playoff team owns as pivotal a camp battle as the one between perennial disappointments Greg Robinson and Cyrus Kouandjio. Everything we've heard from Lions beat writers suggests that both castoffs have been a major bust. Robinson earned the flimsy designation as the starter in the team's first depth chart of 2017. This could be a camp competition in which one man gets the job by default rather than outright winning the position. Both Robinson (2014 first-rounder) and Kouandjio (2014 second-rounder) are extreme draft disappointments. The hope in Detroit was that a change of scenery and coaching could coax more production. Based on everything we've heard, no dice. With starter Taylor Decker missing at least a month, if not more, Matthew Stafford's blind side will be worth keeping an eye on this preseason.

FROM ORR: I came away surprised that the Indianapolis Colts were not more involved in a discussion to sign Colin Kaepernick. Random teams would rise and fizzle in their levels of flirtation, but the scope of Andrew Luck's shoulder injury was apparently larger than we thought -- and larger than the team's owner thought. Would it be stunning not to see him out there opening day? It wouldn't be hard to imagine, however, the Colts' offense and their fast-break wide receivers actually working well with Kaepernick. To me, the end of this portion of camp puts an unbelievable weight on the shoulders of quarterbacks like Scott Tolzien and Ryan Mallett for that matter. Will they perform well enough this week to keep those Kaepernick discussions to a minimum?

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