Doug Martin is having the best year since his rookie season, and is making the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' decision not to pick up the fifth-year option on his contract look foolish. Martin's scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, but he's made it clear that he wants to be back in Tampa after building a house there this past year. And now it seems the Bucs want him back too: according to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune, the Bucs are in contract talks with their star running back.
Martin's had an odd career so far. The back landed in the NFL with a splash, posting a whopping 1,962 yards from scrimmage and 12 total touchdowns in his rookie season, but he followed that spectacular year with two very disappointing and injury-marred seasons, leading to serious questions about his future as an NFL player.
And yet this year he's looked rejuvenated: he's quick, his lateral agility is back, his vision is back and he's regularly making people miss. He's put up 1,354 rushing yards and six touchdowns on just 273 carries, trailing only Adrian Peterson for the league's rushing title. He's also caught 26 passes for 211 yards despite being displaced by Charles Sims on passing downs.
Looking at running back contracts around the league, Martin's likely to be paid around $7-8 million per year, which is the going rate for a good but not elite back. That's what LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte, Jonathan Stewart and Jamaal Charles managd to get from their teams, with the stratosphere of Marshawn Lynch ($12 million per year) and Adrian Peterson ($14 million per year) distinctly unattainable.
I would not expect the Bucs to get him to re-sign him for less than $7 million per year -- at that point we're talking about old backs like Frank Gore, or role players like Shane Vereen, Darren Sproles and C.J. Spiller -- though it should be noted that Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds thinks $5 million per year is about the kind of money they'll be offering Martin.
Given the Bucs' run-heavy offense, the likely lack of options on the free agent market at running back (though Matt Forte is a potential signing) and the team's need to focus on defense in the draft for once, re-signing Doug Martin will be a major priority for the team this offseason -- and that may cost them a little more than they'd like.