The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a decision still to make regarding Doug Martin, but it should be a simple one.
Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers showed tremendous promise last season. Their offense took a huge leap forward as their quarterback progressed in his sophomore effort. What’s more, they’ve improved the offense this offseason with the addition of DeSean Jackson, a perfect fit at wide receiver. What’s crazy, though, is that the offense improved without Doug Martin being a factor.
Inconsistency and injuries have marred much of Doug Martin’s career to this point. He burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2012 after being taken with the 31st overall pick in the draft. Martin’s real coming out party happened in Week 8 of that year with 251 yards and four scores against the Oakland Raiders. Overall, he played in all 16 games as he rushed for 1,451 yards and 11 touchdowns on a 4.6 yards per attempt average while also posting 472 yards receiving.
The future seemed bright for the Boise State product, but past four seasons have been a mixed bag at best. Injuries shortened his 2013 season where he played in only six games, and he averaged just 3.6 yards per carry when on the field. That average only marginally improved to 3.7 yards per attempt in 2014 as he again only played 11 games.
Martin’s 2015 campaign saw a bit of a resurgence from Martin, however. Playing in all 16 games again, he ran for 1,402 yards with an impressive 4.9 yards per carry mark, though he posted just six touchdowns.
As a result, the Buccaneers inked him to a five-year deal worth $35.75 million in the 2016 offseason. He “rewarded” Tampa with his worst season yet in numerous ways. Martin rushed for a meager 421 yards and averaged only 2.9 yards per attempt. Quite frankly, he was awful when on the field, which was only for eight games. To worsen matters, he missed Week 17 after being suspended for four games due to violating the league’s PED policy, the final three games of which will be served to start the 2017 season.
With the suspension looming, that led many to believe that Martin’s future with the Bucs was going to be short-lived. Yet, no decision has been made just yet. What’s more, NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport (via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com) reported that the running back is expected to participate in Tampa Bay’s offseason workouts that begin on April 17.
Clearly the Buccaneers are going to at least give Martin another chance. But frankly, their decision is easy here. They should move on from the running back and start fresh at the position.
Ultimately this has little to do with the suspension. Yes, not having him for the first three games isn’t working in his favor. It also doesn’t show a great deal of commitment on his part if, as part of an up-and-coming team, he’s failing PED tests. However, the reasoning behind letting him go simply comes down to both financial reasons.
Whether they cut him immediately or post-June 1, the Buccaneers would save $7 million on their cap by releasing Martin while incurring no dead cap (per Over The Cap). Considering how close they are seemingly to both making the postseason and competing for a Super Bowl even, the possibility that they could add a key veteran on either side of the ball when cap casualties occur post-June 1 with $7 million of extra space is a likely one.
Considering that possibility versus the notion of keeping Martin then comes down to what he could bring to the table once he returns for a maximum of 13 games in 2017. The real issue is that you don’t know what he’s going to bring. What has Doug Martin truly done to inspire any type of confidence that the 2012 or 2015 version of himself will be on the field? He’s been both injury-plagued and inconsistent in three of his five NFL seasons. The $7 million in cap space seems much more enticing than relying on that.
Making the decision to cut Martin even more favorable for the Buccaneers is the 2017 NFL Draft. This is an exceptionally deep class of running backs set to enter the league. Picking at 19th overall, they likely won’t have a shot at Leonard Fournette. But the likes of Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey could indeed be there. Even if they were to address another need in the first round, the potential to land a Day 1 starter isn’t limited to the first day of the draft.
Prospects like Alvin Kamara, Marlon Mack, D’Onta Foreman and Joe Mixon will be there in the mid-rounds and all have starter-type talent. Yes, Mixon comes with a whole lot of issues off the field, but his ability on the field is unavoidable. Even later, players such as Jamaal Williams, Brian Hill and several others should be there and have starter potential in the NFL.
Admittedly, the Buccaneers shouldn’t be confident in relying on Jacquizz Rodgers, Peyton Barber or Charles Sims to be their featured back in the 2017 season. Yes, they have their roles and can be nice complements, but they shouldn’t be anything more. With that said, the draft offers much better options than Doug Martin at running back for Tampa Bay. Coupled with the financial flexibility that cutting him provides, the decision is quite simple. Martin isn’t the future and, soon enough, he should in fact be part of their past.