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

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

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.

Bucs RB Doug Martin - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

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.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

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]
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plopes808
plopes808
5 years ago

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.

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

I don’t quite get this unless this is a strong message to Martin that you better be ready for next season?

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
5 years ago

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… Read more »

macabee
macabee
5 years ago

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… Read more »

creamsicles
creamsicles
Reply to  macabee
5 years ago

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).

macabee
macabee
Reply to  creamsicles
5 years ago

I agree! Martin is not at practice today. Team says excused absence! Something is going on. I just don’t know what it is!

Garv
Garv
5 years ago

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.

jme0151
jme0151
Reply to  Garv
5 years ago

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.

BUC 727
BUC 727
5 years ago

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.

BUC 727
BUC 727
Reply to  BUC 727
5 years ago

typo…year

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

Apparently we wanted Koetter to simply say, “Doug Martin has sucked all year so we’re going to sit his ass down.”

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

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.

surferdudes
5 years ago

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,… Read more »

martinii
martinii
5 years ago

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… Read more »

Morgan R
Morgan R
5 years ago

It’s because I bought his jersey this year, damn you Koetter, damn you.

cbbucfan
cbbucfan
5 years ago

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… Read more »

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan
5 years ago

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.

76Buc
76Buc
5 years ago

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.

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

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.”

76Buc
76Buc
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

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.

Buc 1976
Buc 1976
5 years ago

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!