Thursday, May 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs have tough call on impending free agent Doug Martin

TAMPA

Oh, how the Bucs love the way Doug Martin runs. But will they let him walk? • Martin rushed for 235 yards in Sunday's 45-17 win over the Eagles. He is second only to the Vikings' Adrian Peterson among the league's rushing leaders with 941 yards. • And after six more games with the Bucs, he can wear any uniform he wants. • That's because general manager Jason Licht and coach Lovie Smith decided not to pick up Martin's fifth-year option of $5.6 million for 2016, making him a free agent at the end of the season. • The next time Gene Deckerhoff says "Martin is gone!', it might be true. • The funny thing is that Licht and Lovie aren't eating their fists or screaming into pillows. • In fact, it made perfect sense when they decided that locking up Martin for another year wasn't a good idea. • For starters, the contract would've been guaranteed in case of an injury. And remember, despite a dazzling rookie season in 2012 when he rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl, Martin missed a total of 15 games in 2013-14 with shoulder, knee and hamstring injuries. The "Muscle Hamster" spent too much time on the treadwheel.

In fact, you could argue the Bucs are reaping the benefits of their decision. Martin reported to training camp in the best shape of his life, motivated because, as offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter so eloquently stated, "It's a contract year!"

You could notice the difference in offseason workouts and training camp, when Martin was finishing every run like it was the final stretch of the Kentucky Derby. Now the Bucs' entire team is sort of riding on his back.

"Is Doug Martin a priority? I can say that yes, he definitely is," Smith said Monday. "And I don't think that's a bad thing at all to go into the fifth year.

"I think it's benefited Doug as much as anything. He's in a great position now. I don't think Doug came into the season thinking, hey, he wasn't wanted around here. I think it was the complete opposite of that. And we have acknowledged everything he's done along the way, and we've put him in a position to have the type of year he's having right now. I think it's all good. And if I'm Doug Martin, I'm pretty happy I didn't sign the contract I had before, and I like the position I'm in now."

Let's agree that running backs have been devalued in the NFL. It had been two years since one was drafted in the first round until last May, when Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon were the No. 1 picks of the Rams and Chargers, respectively.

And signing a running back to a second big-money contract is tricky. Martin is 26, so if he does get a four-year deal, by the time he's making his biggest salary, he'll be 30, generally the expiration age for most running backs.

Remember, too, it's an allocation business with a salary cap. Before long, the Bucs will want to reach extensions with receiver Mike Evans, linebacker Kwon Alexander or their two rookie offensive linemen. Fortunately, the Bucs are the only team that can negotiate with him until March.

That said, Martin is having a monstrous season. Against the Eagles, he had runs of 58, 84 and 27 yards. He ran through tackles. He hopped around like a drop of water on a hot frying pan.

"I think he's a complete running back. I think you start with that," Smith said. "Yeah, his rushing yards say that. But you just look at how he's gotten them, yes, he can get the third and short. He has enough power to be able to get that. What I've been impressed with as much as anything which maybe he didn't show as much last year is making guys miss in the open field, and not just necessarily in the open field — sometimes there's those small holes, he knows how to get himself small to get through it."

If you're Martin, there is a lot to like about staying with the Bucs. They have a young franchise quarterback with a big arm, which will keep safeties from stacking the line of scrimmage. They have some beefy young offensive linemen who have grated some roads for you.

"I think as an offensive line, when you have a running back having the type of year as Doug, you like blocking for him. You definitely feel like you're a part of what he's doing," Smith said. "We've seen him catch the ball, run over guys, make people miss. I think he's kind of showed us everything a great running back should show people on a weekly basis.

"You talk about great running backs, what do they have? Vision. Instincts to know when to make a move."

That's the scary part. Because if Martin decides to break free of the Bucs' grasp, he's not looking back.

Comments
NFL’s new anthem policy requires players to stand on sideline or remain in locker room

NFL’s new anthem policy requires players to stand on sideline or remain in locker room

ATLANTA — The NFL and the owners of its 32 teams enacted a new national anthem policy Wednesday designed, they said, to compel players to stand if they’re on the sideline for the playing of the anthem prior to a game."Clearly our objective as a leagu...
Published: 05/23/18
Bucs bring back Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy to compete for WR/KR job

Bucs bring back Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy to compete for WR/KR job

Lakewood grad Bernard Reedy, who handled the Bucs' kickoff and punt returns for much of last season, is back with Tampa Bay again.Reedy, 26, was signed on Wednesday, one day after the Bucs began OTA workouts. Thomas Sperbeck, the former Boise State r...
Published: 05/23/18
NFL policy: Players can stay inside during anthem if they won’t stand

NFL policy: Players can stay inside during anthem if they won’t stand

NFL owners passed a new policy Wednesday with the hopes of moving on from boycotts and political turmoil related to some players protesting by not standing during the national anthem before games.Under the new policy, NFL players are not required to ...
Published: 05/23/18
New Super Bowls: Arizona in 2023, New Orleans in 2024

New Super Bowls: Arizona in 2023, New Orleans in 2024

And you thought our headline would be "Mariota hosts NFL draft before Winston."The NFL owners are meeting in Atlanta this week, and that means a new batch of future Super Bowls getting announced for their homes.A year ago, Tampa got the huge news, an...
Published: 05/23/18
Winston: Bucs’ Ryan Jensen ‘one of the toughest, meanest, baddest centers’

Winston: Bucs’ Ryan Jensen ‘one of the toughest, meanest, baddest centers’

It's hard to miss new Bucs center Ryan Jensen at OTA workouts this week, with his long red hair visible from across the field even when he's wearing a helmet."Any recommendations for anti frizz shampoo and conditioner?" Jensen wrote on Twitter with a...
Published: 05/23/18
Gerald McCoy appreciates help on D-line, but knows it will take more than names on paper

Gerald McCoy appreciates help on D-line, but knows it will take more than names on paper

TAMPA — He's 30."I know. I'm getting old," Gerald McCoy said Tuesday, shaking his head.He's still a young man, of course. But in football years, McCoy has finally reached a black balloon birthday. This is his ninth season with the Bucs, which i...
Published: 05/22/18
HBO: Ex-Buc Scot Brantley battling Alzheimer’s, claim denied by NFL

HBO: Ex-Buc Scot Brantley battling Alzheimer’s, claim denied by NFL

Former Gators and Bucs linebacker Scot Brantley, also once a popular sports radio host in Tampa, is battling Alzheimer's Disease and has been rejected from the NFL's concussion settlement, according to tonight's episode of HBO's "Real Sports with Bry...
Published: 05/22/18
Bucs’ Mike Evans: Yards after catch must improve in 2018

Bucs’ Mike Evans: Yards after catch must improve in 2018

Mike Evans is one of just three receivers in NFL history to open his career with four straight 1,000-yard seasons, but he understands one area where he can make a big improvement in 2018: yards after the catch."I think last year was my worst year in ...
Published: 05/22/18
Gerald McCoy: Sorry, but Vita Vea is Maui from Moana

Gerald McCoy: Sorry, but Vita Vea is Maui from Moana

If you've been dipping your toes in the "Gosh, Vita Vea looks a lot like the guy from Disney's Moana" pool, Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has jumped in all the way.The Bucs' 347-pound rookie is massive, has a family history on the Pacific island...
Published: 05/22/18
Jason Pierre-Paul, Brent Grimes absent as Bucs open OTA practices

Jason Pierre-Paul, Brent Grimes absent as Bucs open OTA practices

The Bucs started another chapter of their offseason Tuesday with the first OTA (organized team activity) practice at One Buc Place, with veterans Jason Pierre-Paul and Brent Grimes as the only healthy players absent from what is officially a voluntar...
Published: 05/22/18