Free agency wheeling and dealing doesn’t begin until March but Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin picked up an early vote of confidence from his new head coach.
The Buccaneers officially introduced Dirk Koetter as the franchise’s replacement for Lovie Smith with a Friday afternoon press conference. About an hour later, the Bucs’ offensive coordinator-turned-head coach sat down with reporters in the media room for another Q-and-A session.
The nearly 25-minute discussion ended with a question regarding Martin, the NFL’s second-leading rusher this season behind Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson. The always-candid Koetter mentioned earlier that as head coach there will be times when he’ll have to temper his openness answering certain questions.
Those will come in the future because this wasn’t one of those moments.
“Tell Jason Licht that I want Doug Martin!” Koetter said smiling. “Tell Jason. I’m putting my name on that. I want Doug Martin to be a Buc, so you tell him.”
He was playing it up a little with the emphatic answer and table slaps, but the desire to keep Martin in pewter and red is no joke.
“Who wouldn’t want Doug Martin back?” Koetter added. “He’s a terrific football player, so of course we would like to have him back. Jason’s got control of that and I think he wants Doug back, too, but you guys have to get him on that one. But I’m pretty sure he does.”
After bursting onto the NFL scene by rushing for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie in 2012, Martin struggled through two straight injury-plagued seasons before getting back on track this season. Tampa Bay chose not to exercise Martin’s fifth-year option on his rookie contract leading into the 2015 season and the feature back responded with 1,402 yards and six scores.
Along with Chicago’s Matt Forte, Martin will be one of the hottest running back commodities hitting the market this spring. Others include Miami’s Lamar Miller, New York Jets backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, San Francisco’s Reggie Bush, Washington’s Alfred Morris, Denver’s C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman and New Orleans’ Khiry Robinson.