It is still unclear where Martin (suspension) fits into the Buccaneers' plans for 2017, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Martin played just eight games in the first season of his five-year, $35.75 contract, first missing an extended stretch with a hamstring injury, and then sitting out Week 17 due to a four-game suspension stemming from a violation of the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. The suspension voids more than $7 million in guarantees from his contract, allowing the Bucs to easily move on from a deal that already looks like a mistake. Martin has a pair of 1,400-yard rushing seasons (2012, 2015) to his name, but he's only played 57 of a possible 80 games through five years, and he managed just 144 carries for 421 yards (2.9 YPC) in 2016. Although he is said to be doing well after completing a stay at a rehab center in February, the 28-year-old running back will still be unavailable for Weeks 1-3. Given his injury history, salary and track record of inconsistency, Martin is in serious danger of being released before the season. His fate might be sealed in late April if the Bucs use a high draft pick on a running back. The team re-signed Jacquizz Rodgers and will also return both Charles Sims and Peyton Barber.
Martin (suspension), who met with Bucs officials in Tampa last week, is reportedly doing well and will prepare for the offseason program over the next several weeks in California, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports. "We've checked in with Doug," general manager Jason Licht said at the combine. "His well-being is very important to us right now. We don't have to make a decision right now. We've got time, so there's no point in coming out and saying what we want to do and what we plan on doing. We're going to let the process play out and it's good for both parties." The Bucs reconvene in mid-April for the start of OTAs, and, as of now, Martin remains a part of their plan. His suspension doesn't prohibit him from practicing with the team in any way during the offseason, but it does allow Tampa to void a guarantee of $7 million for this coming season and release him. However, the Bucs are understandably keeping their plans close to the vest for now, while also trying to leave open the possibility of their former Pro Bowl running back returning to the team in 2017 and playing a prominent role, as he has in the past. While they'll keep their options open with respect to Martin, the front office and head coach Dirk Koetter are firmly in lockstep with respect to their goal of solidifying the running back position this offseason. "We don't have to make that decision right now," Koetter told reporters Wednesday at the NFL combine. "Doug's under contract right now and no decision has to be made on that right now. So we don't have to rush it. We can just work through it as we go. But that's one of the things high on our list is what's going to happen with our running back situation?"
The Buccaneers aren't expected to make a decision on Martin for the foreseeable future, Roy Cummings of FloridaFootballInsiders.com reports. Handed a four-game suspension in December for a violation of the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, Martin missed the final game of the 2016 season and promptly entered a treatment facility. Prior to the ban, he was a workhorse in the eight games in which he was active, averaging 18 carries per contest and corralling 14 of 16 passes. However, he also missed six outings in the early going due to a hamstring injury and was inactive in Week 16 for an undisclosed reason. The impetus was soon revealed, though, at which point his campaign was over. If Martin is still a Buccaneer next season, the backfield will be entrusted to holdovers Charles Sims, a veritable pass-catcher, and Peyton Barber for the first three games, while unrestricted free agent Jacquizz Rodgers, exclusive rights free agent Russell Hansbrough, and a draft pick or two may also be in the fold.
Martin (suspension) rushed for 421 yards and three touchdowns on 144 carries (2.9 YPC) while also hauling in 14 of 16 targets for 134 yards during the 2016 season. He also lost a fumble. Just ten months ago, Martin was riding high after re-signing with the Bucs on a five-year, $35.75 million dollar deal mere hours before the start of free agency. Once the lights went on for the 2016 regular season, however, it appeared the fifth-year pro was on a constant downhill slide. A hamstring injury in Week 2 knocked him out for the ensuing six contests, and he struggled upon getting back on the field. The 27-year-old was notably under 3.0 YPC in five of the six games he did play upon returning, with a season-high 87-yard performance against the Seahawks serving as the only exception during that stretch. Although Martin appeared to run decisively for the most part in 2016, there were some rumblings about him exhibiting poor vision and not exploiting available running lanes at times. Backfield mate Jacquizz Rodgers' solid performances behind essentially the same offensive line likely lent further credence to that theory, and with Martin's season ending under the spectre of a PED suspension, his future in Tampa is in relative doubt until further notice, an inconceivable notion heading into this past season.
Martin's 2017 guarantee of $7 million can be voided due to his current PED suspension, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports. The Bucs inked Martin to a five-year, $35.75 million dollar contract in the offseason that included $15 million in guaranteed money, but the agreement included a clause that the 2017 guarantee could be voided in its entirety in the event of "PED violations, substances of abuse and engaging in conduct detrimental to the team", according to Laine's report. While Martin's future with the team is far from decided at this point, the provision represents an escape hatch that's certainly worth being aware of with respect to the fifth-year pro's future prospects in Tampa. Further complicating matters is the fact that journeyman Jacquizz Rodgers has unexpectedly emerged as a viable alternative in the backfield this season, and could potentially be secured for a reasonable investment following the expiration of his current one-year, $760,000 deal. Rodgers has gained 485 yards at 4.3 yards per tote in 2016, and will have a final chance to demonstrate his wares as the clear-cut lead back against the Panthers in Week 17. Meanwhile, Martin's situation will be one to monitor heading into the offseason, with a successful completion of the treatment program he has entered representing the first step to further clarity and hopefully, a potential recovery.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|3 Year Avg||183||784||3||19||134||0||109|