INDIANAPOLIS — A few weeks ago, the Bucs believed RB Doug Martin may make it to free agency. Wednesday, GM Jason Licht didn't rule out that possibility but said he was optimistic the team could reach an agreement with the NFL's second-leading rusher last season.
Licht planned to meet this week in Indianapolis with Martin's agent, Brian Murphy. Though the sides were not believed to be close and Licht has said there are options in the draft and free agency at running back, the negotiations have a positive vibe.
"We'll be meeting with Doug's people here. We've got a couple of things going for us here on that one," Licht said at the NFL combine. "I know he wants to be a Buc, and I know that we want him to be a Buc.
"I'm sure there will be some obstacles — there always are in negotiations — but we'll prepare for either way. I'm optimistic, and we'll continue talking with him."
Martin, 27, has had two great seasons with the Bucs sandwiched around two injury-filled ones. Among the younger options at running back is the Dolphins' Lamar Miller, 25 in April.
The Bucs also haven't ruled out using RB Charles Sims in an expanded role, though it's clear they prefer that he not be the primary ball carrier.
"Charles had a nice year for us, and we think the world of Charles," coach Dirk Koetter said. "The role that he played last year was more of a complementary role, and he did a great job in that role. … When Charles was drafted … I know the feeling was he could be an every-down back if need be. We'll see how that plays out."
MANKINS DECISION SOON: G Logan Mankins will decide in a few weeks either to play in 2016 or retire, the Bucs said. But it's clear they are prepared to move on without him.
"I've talked to Logan, and he's still working through it," Koetter said. "A guy like Logan, he knows the time line. We haven't put a deadline on it or anything.
"We would love to have Logan back. His decision isn't going to have any sort of hindrance on what we're planning on doing for the future. You've got to build, you've got to look three years ahead, so his decision isn't going to hurt us in any way right now with what we're planning on doing."
BODY CONTROL: QB Jameis Winston's selection to the Pro Bowl had a hidden bonus. Winston was impressed by the physical conditioning of players such as Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and Falcons WR Julio Jones, Koetter said.
"First of all, Jameis was real impressed by how professional Julio was, how serious he was even though (the Pro Bowl is) a relaxing game, and then how put together he was (physically)," Koetter said. "And I told Jameis, 'Well, Julio's body didn't (always) look like that. He's always been blessed, but Julio works at it.' I've seen that with my own eyes.
"(Winston) gave me an example. He goes, 'Coach, we were having a little walk-through and Julio was over there getting stretched out.' Jameis notices that kind of stuff. That's how he is."