Buccaneers two-time Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin may indeed be done for the year, but it’s hard to believe he’s done wearing pewter and red for good.
Yes, that speculative result has been thrown out there along with a lot of theories as to why Martin has suddenly fallen out of favor, but to release Martin outright seems like a rather extreme measure.
At the very least it would be a ridiculously costly measure.
Martin re-upped with the Bucs last spring, signing a five-year, $35 million contract that included $15 million in guaranteed payouts paid out over a two-year period.
The second year of that payout period is 2017, which means the Bucs would create $7 million worth of dead cap space by letting go of what has been one of the NFL’s top running backs.
You would think that Martin would have had to do a lot more than just fail to gain more than 3 yards per carry to earn that kind of a sentence, which is why cutting him seems so unlikely.
No, if the Martin has simply failed to play to the standards expected of him, then the likelihood is he’ll be back with the Bucs and leading their running game yet again next year.
Unless of course Martin has indeed done something altogether untoward, which is what many have begun to speculate as the mystery surrounding Martin’s benching continues to grow.
And really, at this point who can blame anyone for speculating the worst. Despite the Bucs claim that Martin’s benching was a football decision made by coach Dirk Koetter, nothing much adds up here.
OK, you want to go with the hot hand and make Jacquizz Rodgers your guy, fine. No problem there. Rodgers has proved by far to be the Bucs most potent back this year and he’s earned the right to play more.
But when it’s suggested that Martin can’t earn a helmet because an undrafted free agent is needed for a handful of special teams plays, well that’s where the Bucs argument starts to fall apart.
Look, making up a 46-man roster is no easy task. Spots get taken up pretty quickly when you consider four are gobbled up immediately by a punter, a kicker, a long snapper and backup quarterback.
That doesn’t leave much room for extras, but you would think that somewhere in the mix of running backs, tight ends and receivers there’s room for a potential game-breaker like Martin.
And for all we know, maybe there was and still is. For all we know, maybe this whole “benching’’ has been done in an effort, at least in part, to protect Martin and the Bucs investment in Martin.
The timing seems a bit odd, of course, but for all we know the Bucs may have simply decided that no matter how hard he tries, Martin simply isn’t going to give them what they need this year.
For all we know, the trained eyes of the Bucs coaches have seen Martin run hard and run into wall after wall of defenders and decided the hamstring strain simply took too much out of him and that he’s better off sitting out.
Again, it seems a bit odd, but everything about this Martin mystery seems odd. It is in fact the most confounding situation the Bucs have had since Greg Schiano abruptly benched Josh Freeman, who had started the previous full three seasons, and then, outright released him two games later.
That one came out of nowhere, too. Then word of missed meetings, missed team buses to games and other off-field issues began to surface and before you knew it, Freeman was out of football.
Nothing has surfaced yet to suggest Martin has stumbled onto a similar path but the actions the Bucs have taken have plenty of people wondering. Buc fans can only hope the results are not the same.