Contrary to what you may have heard coming out of the rumor mill, the Buccaneers have not given up on the idea of Doug Martin running the ball for them again in 2017 or beyond.
The word from inside One Buc Place is that the Bucs intend to play the Martin situation out and see where things stand with the beleaguered back when the time comes for the Bucs to reassemble again this spring.
Even then the Bucs may not be ready to make a long-term call on Martin, in part because they really don’t have to make any kind of a call on Martin until after Week 3 of the 2017 regular season.
That’s when the four-game suspension Martin earned for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs is scheduled to expire and there’s really no reason for the Bucs to act before that.
Though they are no longer on the hook for what was to be a $7 million guaranteed payout this year, the Bucs can afford to keep Martin around and probably should right through the start of the season.
After all, the Bucs learned a year ago that you can never have too many capable running backs and that’s an area where they are once again running a little short of talent.
Without Martin the Bucs simply do not have an every-down running back and in terms of backup options who have proved themselves at the NFL level they’re actually a little shy on those, too.
Charles Sims is looking more and more like a change-of-pace, third-down back at best and while Jacquizz Rodgers showed signs of every-down capabilities last year he’s never done so across a full season.
Besides, Rodgers is an unrestricted free agent and while the Bucs have expressed a desire to bring him back, his agent says they have yet to reach out to him and begin contract negotiations.
That’s a bit curious because it could mean that the Bucs plan is to wait for the market to be set on Rodgers before making him an offer, which would be smart, or it could mean they’ve decided to move on.
The latter is possible because the Bucs do believe internally that Peyton Barber, who handled himself rather well last year, running 55 times for 223 yards (4.1 per carry), could be an every-down back some day.
It’s unlikely, though, that the Bucs are ready to start to lean on Barber in that way now, especially with the draft coming up and the running back class considered one of the deepest in years.
In fact, given their situation no one should be surprised if the Bucs don’t double down on running backs in the draft by grabbing one early, perhaps in the first round, and another a little later.
That situation could change dramatically between now and then, though. A good report on Martin could change everything which is why the Bucs probably won’t decide his fate for quite some time.