When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Charles Sims in the third round of the 2014 NFL draft, people seemed confused. What do the Bucs need another running back for? They already have four of them! And why did they not address the guard position at that point? Does this mean they don't like Doug Martin? Will they trade the third-year back?
The answer's not that difficult, though: Charles Sims is a different kind of player from Doug Martin, and he'll be used in a different manner. He won't replace Doug Martin: he'll complement the muscle hamster.
"Doug is our starter at the tailback position," Lovie Smith explained on 620 WDAE. "That hasn't changed. But I'll also say you need more, at least two running backs that you play quite a bit. And you can even, you know, three running backs will play for us sometimes during the year. But Doug [Martin] is our starter, he'll be the bell-cow, he'll get the majority of the carries, but we'll play more than one."
In the words of Lovie Smith: this says a lot more about how they view Mike James and Bobby Rainey than it does about how they view Doug Martin, who will still be the bell-cow starter. But Martin touched the ball 368 times as a rookie, and that's just not very healthy. Instead, the Bucs will look to more of a timeshare at the running back position.
"I definitely think there are similarities between Charles [Sims] and Matt Forte" Lovie Smith said. "But you know, Matt [Forte] is an All-Pro, has been in the league a long time, has played at a certain level. But we like the potential of Charles [Sims], and we thought he brought something different to the running back positions. I'm talking about as a pass catcher out of the backfield, splitting him out wide, some things we did do with Matt Forte."
RT @sickdraw: Give us the good news first. >>Sims can catch. Good receiver. Bad running back. He'll likely be a receiver only in the NFL.— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) May 13, 2014
It's also about depth and injuries. When the Bucs lost Doug Martin last year, we saw some panic -- but Mike James stepped in admirably. Except he was lost to injury three games later, and then Bobby Rainey was forced to step in. Finding players who could be productive three roster spots deep was pretty lucky, but you don't want to rely on luck.
"You can't have too many good running backs," Lovie Smith said. "We had injuries hit our running back position last year. And again, as long as you have different flavors to your running backs there's a place to be able to play."
Does that mean one of the other running backs could be traded? Depth is good, but five running backs may be a little too much depth. You only have so many roster spots after all. For now, expect the Bucs to keep all of them.
"Our plan right now is to take them all to camp," Jason Licht said. "Look at the history here, there's bound to be an injury. We're trying to see what's best for us. We don't want to just part ways with somebody who could be a valuable piece of our team."
Of course, if any team blows them away with a trade offer I'm sure they'd part ways with any of them. (Nearly) every player has his price, after all. But it's doubtful that they'd get anything much for Mike James, coming off a lower-leg injury, and Bobby Rainey, who was on the street at mid-season last year. Reality is that James and Rainey did well last year, but neither is a special talent -- and in today's NFL, no one pays for a solid-but-replaceable running back. After all, Rainey was a waiver-wire pickup at midseason. Teams will be able to find guys like that on the waiver wire this season, too.
Doug Martin is the only running back who would certainly get them something in trade (though anything more than a third-round pick might be ambitious), but he is by far their best running back and relying on Mike James, Bobby Rainey and unproven Charles Sims all year seems like a bad idea. The Bucs want to rely heavily on the run, which means they need a deep and versatile stable of running backs. Trading away their best back doesn't really fit that philosophy.
So, expect the Bucs to just stick with the stable of running backs they have.