Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and LBs coach Mark Duffner - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Where do we go from here?
One year ago, running back Doug Martin had the second-highest rushing total in the NFL. Ten months ago, he signed a five-year, $35.75-million contract to remain Tampa Bay’s feature back after his second Pro Bowl berth. Five months ago, he was making fans “ooh and aah” in training camp. Two weeks ago, Dirk Koetter was still defending Martin as the team’s franchise back.
As of today, none of that seems to matter, and the future of Martin as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer may be more than just in question.
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The move to make inactive Martin again this week, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud, sends the message that despite being the franchise’s fourth all-time leading rusher in just four years, Martin’s hard fall from grace has resulted in his roster spot no longer being a lock in 2017, even with his contract. Martin hasn’t rushed for over 100 yards in a single game since last November, but you’ve all read that stat plenty of times. The more damning stat is that he hasn’t even had a game where he’s averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry since December of 2015.
Martin’s presence this week likely wouldn’t have mattered in the grand scheme of things as the Buccaneers’ playoff chances are all but shot. However, not even making Martin available to play is different than just benching him. Making Martin, who has rushed for just 421 yards and three touchdowns on 144 carries (2.9 avg.), a healthy scratch makes you think they’ve already put out feelers for him, and if there has been any interest from other teams in acquiring him, the Bucs are not going to risk his trade value.
But, even if the writing on the wall becomes true, how likely is it that Martin gets dealt this offseason? There are a couple factors to think about when speculating that possibility. First, Martin’s 2017 contract money of $7 million is fully guaranteed. That means that any team trading for him would have to pick that up, regardless of how much he plays.
With that in mind, you figure a team trading for him is going to make him its primary running back. On paper, there are a few teams who might take that bait. The Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles are two that come to mind. Perhaps the Jacksonville Jaguars or New York Giants take a swing at him with their less-than-ideal rushing totals this year – though those teams would take some moving around of their own.
But finding a trade suitor is all about value. Regardless of whether or not there is interest between both parties, if the two can’t find a common ground, a trigger will not be pulled. With Martin being a healthy scratch again, you figure the Bucs are trying to protect his value (whatever that is) as much as they can. The guess here is they’re looking to get some kind of Day 2 pick in the 2017 draft for him – meaning round 2 or 3. That’s where negotiations will start – though the final price would most likely be less. In addition to price, there’s another layer to Martin’s value, and that is, a very stacked running back class for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Bucs RB Jacquizz Rodgers & QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Those four teams I named and more all need a feature running back, but what may hurt the Bucs cause in moving Martin the most is the likes of LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Florid State’s Davin Cook, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and others who are all possible players toying with general managers’ imaginations. The Colts and Jaguars have a chance at those top two guys, Fournette and Cook, while the other teams could have their eyes on getting a player like Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine, Clemson’s Wayne Gallman or Texas’ D’Onta Foreman in the round two or three range that the Bucs would be asking for Martin.
So, is it really worth trading for a guy who will turn 28 in January with a fully guaranteed 2017 contract coming off the worst stretch of career with a pick that could be one of those players? That might be a tough sell.
The next factor in Martin’s value lies in how much the Bucs think they’re losing by letting him go. For that, you have to look at whom they’ll have without him. Jacquizz Rodgers got most of the running back work last week, and will likely continue to be the top guy in the Bucs’ season finale. Rodgers is 26 years old and leads Tampa Bay with a career-high 485 yards and two touchdowns on 112 carries.
In his six seasons in the NFL, Rodgers has never averaged less than 3.5 yards per carry when given at least 50 carries in a season, but he’s also never been trusted with a full-time load over 16 games. This season has been his heaviest workload, and it has also been his most productive. Is it time for him to get that chance?
It’s obvious that Koetter likes Rodgers enough to play him now, but Rodgers is also an unrestricted free agent this coming offseason. Rodgers certainly won’t get the deal Martin did, but re-signing him this offseason will come with some sort of a commitment. Charles Sims is in the third year of his rookie deal, so he’ll be on the team next season entering a contract year. However, never considering Sims the starter over Martin during his struggles, and immediately going to Rodgers hints that Sims is not a guy the team is grooming to be a feature back, nor has Sims shown the ability to develop into that type of a runner.
The Bucs will also have Peyton Barber, who has rushed for over 200 yards and is averaging 4.1 yards per carry, and possibly Russell Hansbrough, who is reportedly being signed from the New York Giants’ practice squad to Tampa Bay’s active roster this week, moving forward at the running back position. Hansbrough spent training camp and the preseason with the Bucs.
Those are all things to consider when mulling over Martin’s murky future in pewter and red. Even with his contract guaranteed for next year, in an age where running backs can come at a dime a dozen, if there were any time to get something out of Martin, trade-wise, this offseason would be the time to strike. For now, he’s a Buccaneer, but he won’t be suiting up with the rest of them on Sunday.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]
Please, let’s not make the Dougernaught an All pro for another team as we have with so many other players. Let’s instead shore up the OL and give him some space to run. If he can’t stay healthy next year, then we can talk about it. We have a pretty decent rotation going at RB so the load can be shared to keep the mileage down.
I don’t quite get this unless this is a strong message to Martin that you better be ready for next season?
Well, I have a complaint here about Coach Koetter. I know he dislikes talking with the media, and thinks a lot of media storylines are just a bunch of BS, and many times that’s true.
But I think Koetter owes it to the fans, not to mention the players, to explain what the hell is going on here with Martin. If you’re going to bench Martin when he’s healthy and was the star of the team last season, but has been injured much of this season, then tell us all the hell why he’s sitting. Is he too hurt to play? Is his attitude not right? What is it.
Don’t feed us this bullshit about only dressing four backs and two are needed for special teams, so somehow after this game of musical chairs, Doug Martin is left out. There needs to be a good reason, well stated, for sitting last year’s star player. We can take it, and I imagine Doug can take it. His fellow players would like to hear too. Jameis Winston was very clear in comments a couple of days ago that he doesn’t know why Doug Martin was benched.
This is bullshit.
You know when I’m confronted with situations like this where there is a lot of speculation and few facts, I step back, take a deep breath and try and sort out what is known and what is not.
We know that Martin was made inactive for the Saints game and media is reporting that he will be inactive for the Panthers game. Beyond that, personally, I don’t know much. If there us anyone out there with incontrovertible facts, please share!
For all we know Coaches have simply decided that Martin is not the best alternative at RB right now for whatever reasons. Around the league lots of teams are warehousing star players on IR and picking players from other teams practices squads to have them on staff for next season. That may have been the case with Russell Hansbrough from the Giant’s PS.
At this point, there is little reason to believe that Doug is being cut – the biggest of which is Jason licht has not said that. If they were, Just do it why take this tact? If they were going to trade him, why make him appear as ineffective and undesirable? I hate to give advice, so I won’t. I’ll just say I’m going to wait until I hear from the Bucs FO before I get all het up about this announcement.
There is one website which will go unnamed (JoeBucsFan) where posters are already picking Fournette, Cook, or some UDFA as Martin’s replacement. True this is news, but not imminent news where decisions have to be made today or we lose our ability to continue our growth as a team.
Beyond the Panthers game ending the season, the Bucs will have the entire offseason to decide where it wants to go with Doug under contract and other free agents for that matter. I trust that things will be worked out and whatever decisions are made I will still be a Buc fan and loyal as I have always been!
Good post, but another fact is that the timing was in the middle of a playoff run when you don’t want to create distractions…. the more i think of it, it appears something significant had to happen to force his hand… otherwise Koetter is an idiot (assuming this was his decision).
I agree! Martin is not at practice today. Team says excused absence! Something is going on. I just don’t know what it is!
OK, it makes NO sense to cut Doug with 7 MILLION DOLLARS guaranteed next season. After that when he’s 30 and still not producing? Yes. But let him get back to 100% and compete for a starting job next season. That to me makes the most sense.
That’s what I said. We have to pay him no matter. Since he can only produce every other year, next year he will get it done. If Sweezy gets back healthy then we should see improvement along the offensive line. Possible move of Marphet to center. Lots of RB’s in the draft so I am sure Buc’s will be looking there. Make no sense to just cut him and PAY him.
I can’t wrap my head around Koetter essentially saying that we had too many backs to play Doug in the biggest game of the tear, yet brings another back in. Someone, anyone, please explain the logic.
Apparently we wanted Koetter to simply say, “Doug Martin has sucked all year so we’re going to sit his ass down.”
No we want to hear the truth, not a bullshit cover story. Considering that just a week earlier the same coach was completely defensive of Martin and dismissing all media questions at the presser regarding Martin’s status.
Yes, we can handle the truth, whatever it is.
When you have four running backs, you have none. We’d send them all on a one way trip for a back like Elliott. If you’re going to be a team that relies on running the ball with play action, you better have a bell cow back. You also better have a good O line starting right in the middle with a pro bowl caliber center, we should’ve signed the Browns F.A. center instead of our rival Falcons. Solidify the right tackle position. Martin would be a good back up, mentor to let’s say a D. Cook. With his 2017 salary, no ones trading for him, make him a useful back up.
Martin has demonstrated high and low points throughout his career as a Buc. He has been plagued by injuries much like many running backs in the league and while it is purely conjecture on my part, maybe he is not fully healed from his hamstring this year. With Rodgers back in the fold and Barber gaining experience it is a good time to let Doug sit and fully recover and prepare for next year. Remember Martin was the #2 back in the NFL in 2015 and in my mind he is due for a possible repeat performance. We have to pay him, he’s due for a comeback and he’s probably pissed. That could be a dangerous combination which could work in the Buc’s favor in 2017.
It’s because I bought his jersey this year, damn you Koetter, damn you.
I can tell you right now that there are 31 other teams in the NFL that would gladly add Doug Martin to their roster. He is highly regarded around the league. Granted, at $7 million guaranteed next season, many teams may not have the cap space to stomach that. And I am not saying that every other team is in need of a feature running back. But on talent and ability, it would be a no-brainer for just about every team to add a player of his caliber to their roster if they could. Dirk Koetter himself described Martin as one of the top 5 running backs in the NFL just a few weeks ago. So these statements of “coach’s decision” and “a numbers game with special teams” make no sense. The Bucs were facing a must-win game at New Orleans, Martin was healthy (not on the injury report all week), and all of a sudden, the decision is made to declare the player described by the head coach as one of the top 5 running backs in the NFL inactive??? Are politicians running the football operations with the Bucs now??? It sure seems like it, with the decisions and public statements being made. Just when a fan like myself thinks that the team is finally turning the corner and may finally be on the way to building a winner, now my confidence in the team and the coaching staff has collapsed once again. Are the Bucs really contemplating parting ways with Martin after this season? If so, it really begs the question, why sign him to the large contract last offseason if the team feels that they can do better at the running back position now? Can the Bucs not properly evaluate the talent on their own roster? If they make a move such as this, then that is what it is saying to me. And if they can’t, then ownership needs to find people who can.
The problem with the running game this season is not Martin. The offensive line has failed to create open running room for the running backs on a consistent basis all season. On nearly every running play, it seems like there are multiple defenders getting into the backfield. The Bucs are losing the battle at the line of scrimmage. Other teams can also afford to commit more defenders to the run. At wide receiver, the Bucs have Mike Evans and not much else. They don’t have a true number two wide receiver opposite Evans. They have no wide receiver with enough speed to take the top off the defense. In my opinion, you get improved play along the offensive line (upgrade at right tackle and left guard, and possibly center (but do not move Ali Marpet there; keep him at right guard)) and you upgrade the wide receiver corps, and THEN the running game improves. It will not improve simply by sitting or parting ways with Doug Martin.
Not sure how realistic this may be but I’d call Seattle and see about a Martin/M.Bennett swap. They are constantly arguing about money and he would be able to come back where it all started and help us get over the hump. Seattle gets a proven runner that can help and we get another versatile lineman to line up next to Gerald.
I feel PC raising its ugly head. I don’t think he’s the type to slap his girl friend or wife, but something is going on. I don’t believe there is anything in his background to suggest drugs or alcohol. But something is going on. They haven’t came forward with any diabilitating injury or illness, but something is going on. He doesn’t appear to be the type to take the money and sit down (not run), but something is going on.
I’d like to know who’s driving this. My bet is the HC.
Looks like all you folks looking for some sort of way to blame the coach owe Dirk an apology. As Paul Harvey would say, “And now you know the rest of the story.”
scubog, I, for one, was not slamming the HC. I just felt he was driving the sit down. Now, looks like he was involved in the situation, as he should have been. Apparently my number 2 choice above was the correct one. Sometimes I hate being right.
This is a shame I hope Doug gets the right help. I am not sure what direction the team needs to go after this? The RB class is deep this coming year. Good luck Doug I am hoping the very best for you!
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