Doug Martin is yet another example of why you don’t invest heavily at running back, and now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have finally realized that too. Martin, who signed a five-year, $35.7 million deal in 2016, just after he was named as an All-Pro at age 26, was released by the Bucs on Tuesday. Not that we couldn’t have seen this coming two years ago when the deal was signed.
Martin rushed for 1,402 yards and had 271 yards through the air in 2015, but teams wouldn’t have had to look far for reasons to not sign a running back to a premier contract regardless of his output: DeMarco Murray had just completed the first season of the $42 million deal he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles a year earlier, and the Eagles soon traded him after rushing for only 3.6 yards per carry. This did not deter the Bucs from giving Martin $7 million per season and they would come to regret it almost immediately.
In his first season of the deal, Martin had 421 yards on 2.9 yards per carry, and then he was suspended for four games after testing positive for Adderall. Admirably or not, Tampa Bay opted to not void his deal even though it was well within their rights, and he returned after missing the first three games, rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown in his first week back.
However, he ended the season playing in 11 games and averaging 2.9 YPC again. He rushed for 406 yards, which was second on the team behind Peyton Barber, who had 3.9 YPC and 423 yards.
Martin turned 29 in January and he’s been one of the most inconsistent players in the NFL over the last six seasons: He had over 1,400 yards as a rookie, followed by two 400-yard seasons, then another 1,400-yard season, then two more at 400. He’s had injuries, suspensions, and has rarely been a threat in the passing game despite a size (5’9) that would typically imply that he’s a versatile back. During his All-Pro 2015 season, Martin had five fumbles. He’s also good sometimes and may not cost much as he seeks (or at least likely receives) a one-year deal.
The Seattle Seahawks are on the market for new running backs to add to the competition and will probably add at least one veteran into the mix. As offensive coordinator for the New York Jets, Brian Schottenheimer utilized players such as Thomas Jones and LaDainian Tomlinson at times when they were considered to be past their usability, only to get more out of them than most expected. Same would go for Steven Jackson in his final season for the St. Louis Rams, and all were around the same age as Martin is now.
Those who would poo-poo the idea of signing Martin should realize that he, like Chris Ivory when I wrote about him recently, is only being brought in as veteran competition -- not to be the starter. And definitely not to be paid like Eddie Lacy was in 2017. Lacy was 26 a year ago and averaged 5.1 YPC with the Green Bay Packers in limited action a season earlier. Ivory and Martin are older and have not looked good recently. They should cost very little with little-to-nothing guaranteed.
Other backs slated to be free agents include: Le’Veon Bell, Isaiah Crowell, Dion Lewis, LeGarrette Blount, Terrance West, Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill, Darren Sproles, and Rex Burkhead. Other potential cuts (including Ivory), include: Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, Mike Gillislee, and Murray.