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Sizing up the cost of a potential Blake Martinez contract extension

A few recent free agent signings at inside linebacker help clear up the picture of what it would take to extend the Packers’ former fourth-round pick.

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Earlier this week, Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Blake Martinez appeared inside APC’s top-10 countdown of the team’s best players heading into the 2019 season. A source of stability for the Packers in terms of health and production over his first three seasons in the league, Martinez is a key figure in Green Bay’s defense and would figure to be in the team’s long-term plans.

But Martinez is heading into the final year of his rookie deal signed in 2016 and could command a lucrative offer with a strong follow-up to his 2018 season.

With a career-high 144 tackles and five sacks, Martinez could factor heavily into the plans of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine in his second season in Green Bay. A 16-game starter the past two seasons, Martinez has been reliable for the Packers since being drafted in the fourth round and that dependability comes with a price.

In March 2018, the Houston Texans signed Benardrick McKinney to what was the third-highest contract among NFL middle linebackers at the time. McKinney, coming off his first Pro Bowl nod that season, started 16 games in three of his first four seasons. He tallied 105 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and one forced fumble in 2017, modest numbers in comparison to Martinez’s marks of the past couple years. Still, McKinney received a five-year, $50 million contract with $21 million guaranteed.

This spring, another elite inside linebacker signed a massive deal when CJ Mosley agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract with a whopping $51 million guaranteed. However, Mosley has an edge on Martinez in that he earned Pro Bowl recognition in four of his five years in the NFL and has created 15 turnovers to Martinez’s three. Yet, Mosley recorded only one season above 132 tackles (his rookie year) and has not eclipsed four sacks in a given season.

Martinez should not be in line for a contract of Mosley’s magnitude, but it is fair to suggest that he will be in the ballpark of McKinney or slightly above. After all, Anthony Hitchens negotiated a five-year, $45 million contract with Kansas City in 2018 after four pro seasons and Martinez has already far surpassed Hitchens’ production up to that point. The Los Angeles Chargers also gave Denzel Perryman a two-year extension averaging $6 million a year this offseason after an injury-filled third and fourth-year years on his rookie contract. Difference-making potential when healthy helped Perryman in his negotiation.

If Martinez has a fully healthy season for a third consecutive year, he should be expected to match or exceed his numbers and caliber of play in 2019. That means Martinez will not come cheaply. After a 2019 offseason that saw the Packers splash in the free agent pool on several occasions, it is estimated that the team will have around $28 million in cap room, a number near the bottom of the league. That was before the Packers picked up Kenny Clark’s fifth-year option worth around $8 million in 2020. Committing five years and a high seven-figure salary to Martinez alone becomes a potentially costly investment.

However, the uncertain future impacts of 2018 third-rounder Oren Burks and 2019 seventh-rounder Ty Summers make Martinez a near-irreplaceable talent at inside linebacker for the Packers. Holding most of the leverage at this juncture, Martinez should be expected to wear a green and gold uniform for a few more seasons. But that would come with receiving one of the richest contracts ever given to a Packer defender.