The Buccaneers understand the value and importance that All-Pro running back Doug Martin brings to the offense. Now the question for Tampa Bay’s front office is how does that translate into dollars and cents?
Martin is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on March 9, and both sides are very interested in finding common ground on a contract that will keep Martin in Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future. Ultimately, the Bucs front office have the upper hand – and final say – as it has the option to keep Martin in Tampa Bay for another year by placing the franchise tag on him.
However, the likelihood of that happening is almost zero, as the price to keep Martin in Tampa Bay would be in the one-year, $12 million range. That’s a steep price for a running back with two excellent seasons sandwiched around two years of less than 500 yards rushing and multiple injuries.
The Bucs haven’t used the franchise since Jason Licht took over as the team’s general manager in 2014, and it looks like 2016 will be the third year the tag goes unused.
Martin’s agent, David Dunn, has plenty of ammunition when sitting down at the negotiation table. The former Boise State standout rushed for 1,402 yards in a Pro Bowl season in 2015, leading the NFL in runs over 20 yards (14), and helped propel the Bucs offense to a franchise record for offensive production last season, doing so with a rookie quarterback at the helm. Dunn will also point out that the combination of Martin and Charles Sims produced one of the league’s best one-two punch at running back, and that according to ProFootballFocus.com, Martin graded out at as the NFL’s top running back for elusiveness, forcing 67 missed tackles last season.
Add in the fact that new head coach Dirk Koetter and rookie QB Jameis Winston have both openly campaigned for Martin to be re-signed, and at first glance, Dunn and Martin have more chips on their side of the table.
Tampa Bay’s front office would certainly agree to all of Dunn’s points, but would bring up the fact Martin fumbled five times in 2015, second to just Adrian Peterson in the NFL. And as mentioned earlier, Martin had two less than stellar seasons in 2013 and ’14 following his breakout rookie season of 2012, where he rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns and earned his first Pro Bowl berth. The Bucs could also point out, that despite Martin’s rushing yardage totals, he only found the end zone six times in 2015, putting him a tie for 12th among NFL running backs.
While recent speculation has run rampant that Martin might enter free agency without a new contract and test the market, both sides still want to see Martin in pewter and red in 2016 and beyond. Because of that mutual desire, chances remain good that Martin will remain with the Buccaneers.
It makes too much sense for both camps, and when the theme of “offensive continuity” has been the buzz word in Tampa Bay since the end of the 2015 season, Martin most likely lines up behind Winston when the season opener kicks off in September this year. It just likely won’t be as a $12 million, franchised-tagged running back.