Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bucs have tough call on impending free agent Doug Martin

Doug Martin appears to have been motivated when the Bucs didn’t pick up his option, reporting in tremendous shape and running with ferocity.

Getty Images

Doug Martin appears to have been motivated when the Bucs didn’t pick up his option, reporting in tremendous shape and running with ferocity.


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.

Bucs have tough call on impending free agent Doug Martin 11/23/15 [Last modified: Monday, November 23, 2015 10:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays sign first-round pick Brendan McKay to record bonus

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — Determining whether top draft pick Brendan McKay will be more productive as a pitcher or a hitter or can handle the demands of doing both professionally will be a long endeavor that could take years.

    Louisville pitcher Brendan McKay  connects for a grand slam home run during the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament against Notre Dame in May in Louisville, Ky. [Timothy D. Easley/ via AP]
  2. At College World Series, the save goes to an LSU dad/doctor


    OMAHA, Neb. — The father of LSU pitcher Jared Poche' helped revive an 87-year-old man who was slumped on the TD Ameritrade Park concourse with no pulse during Game 1 of the College World Series finals.

    UF’s Tyler Dyson delivers against LSU in Tuesday’s late CWS Game 2. Go to
  3. FSU-Tulane coming to Amalie Arena in December


    Florida State basketball is coming to Tampa.

  4. Is Mikhail Sergachev, who debuts with Lightning at Wednesday camp, ready for the NHL?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — When defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was taken ninth overall by the Canadiens in the 2016 NHL draft, a horde of Montreal media surrounded him for his first news conference.

    Mikhail Sergachev takes a shot during warmups prior to a game between the Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes in October in Montreal. [Getty Images]
  5. Top pick Brendan McKay signing with Rays for $7M bonus


    The Rays are set to sign top pick 1B/LHP Brendan McKay for a bonus just over $7-million, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

    McKay was the No. 4 overall pick in the June 12 draft as he starred as a two-way player leading Louisville to the College World Series.

    The deal is expected to be finalized …

    Brendan McKay was the No. 4 overall pick in the June 12 draft as he starred as a two-way player leading Louisville to the College World Series.