Doug Martin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was set to be the top running back in free agency, but the team has ensured he will remain in the backfield for the foreseeable future, locking him up before he could reach the open market.
Last year, the Bucs declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Martin’s contract in large part because he was coming off two injury-riddled seasons in which he tallied just 950 yards and three touchdowns over 17 games. He'll now cost more than the $6.7 million he earned over his first four seasons after responding with a resurgent campaign in 2015.
This year, Martin churned out 1,402 yards, second only to Adrian Peterson, while reaching the end zone seven times and averaging 4.9 yards per attempt—the best in the NFL among running backs with at least 200 carries.
In addition to serving as a threat in the passing game with 271 receiving yards, Martin possesses the ideal downhill form that NFL teams crave, as he showed with this bruising touchdown run in the Pro Bowl, courtesy of the Bucs:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @TBBuccaneers
He's good. @DougMartin22 for SIX! #BOOM #ProBowl2016 https://t.co/FRT40xp8y72016-2-1 02:33:15
Despite finishing in last place in the NFC South at 6-10, Tampa Bay has a bright future with the young stable of talent new head coach and offensive guru Dirk Koetter has at his disposal.
With quarterback Jameis Winston primed to take another leap after becoming just the third rookie ever to pass for 4,000 yards and wide receiver Mike Evans tallying a pair of 1,000-yard seasons in his first two years, the Bucs needed to retain Martin in order to keep pace in a division that houses elite offenses quarterbacked by Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.