The Cowboys are signing Zack Martin to an extension making him the highest-paid guard in the league, as the money continues to flow into a position that was previously an afterthought. There’s one unsigned high-risk guard out there, and I wonder what team might be willing to roll the dice on him.
According the OverTheCap website, there are now 12 right guards with contracts averaging at least $8.0 million: Kevin Zeitler ($12.0 million), Trai Turner ($11.3), Gabe Jackson ($11.0), David DeCastro ($10.0), Kyle Long ($10.0), T.J. Lang ($9.5), Justin Pugh ($9.0), Ronald Leary ($9.0), Larry Warford ($8.5), Laurent Duvernay-Tardif ($8.3), Brandon Brooks ($8.0) and Marshal Yanda ($8.0). And there are three left guards topping that figure: Andrew Norwell ($13.3 million), Kelechi Osemele ($11.7) and Joel Bitonio ($10.0).
Reports indicate Martin’s contract will raise the bar above all of those guys. That makes sense, in that Martin is better than most (maybe all) of those players. But at the same time, he’s not a free agent. Typically when an offensive lineman lands a monster contract, it’s helped along by the player reaching true free agency – think Norwell, Nate Solder, Leary, Zeitler and Osemele. When a player isn’t a free agent and simply wants a new contract – Rob Gronkowski, for example – it’s harder for him to collect the big dollars.
Martin had one year left on his deal, but the Cowboys wanted to get it done. Had they waited until next spring, the price would have gone up. They might have had to use the franchise tag on him.
While Martin is locked down, there’s still a guard out there: Richie Incognito. He’s a high-risk option for sure, but he could be a good one-year fix for a team needing help at the position.
Incognito has helped power Buffalo’s running game in recent years and is only 34 years old. But he’s also had a tumultuous offseason. In April, he fired his agent and retired. And two weeks ago, he went on a wild rant in a gym in Florida, throwing weights and telling police officers that the government is spying on him, according to police reports. Incognito told the Associated Press he spent three days in a mental hospital.
But Incognito seems to have himself together now, and he’s interested in resuming his career. There are plenty of teams out there with lesser guards, and I would guess Incognito will sign with one them. He might still be one of the best dozen guards in the league. Helped along by his blocking, the Bills have ranked 1st, 1st and 6th in rushing the last three years.
The team that signs him will just have to cross its fingers and hope he doesn’t implode on them.
The Bills have below-average guards on both sides, but they aren’t interested in bringing Incognito back. They forced him to take a pay cut in the offseason. When he said he was coming out of retirement, they released him, making him an unrestricted free agent.