The Tampa Bay Buccaneers benched Doug Martin this past Saturday. This sounds a little drastic, but it actually understates what the Bucs did: they deactivated him from the game-day roster, choosing to go with Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims and undrafted rookie Peyton Barber instead.
That move kind of paid off. Rodgers certainly performed better than Martin has all season, but then Rodgers couldn’t quite carry the running game either. Fundamentally, the problem seems to be the blocking more than the running back.
Martin’s benching has started a whole new conversation, though: will the veteran running back even be a Buccaneer next year? The short answer is: almost certainly, yes. The long answer: his 2017 salary of $7 million is fully guaranteed. The Bucs gain absolutely nothing by releasing Martin before 2018.
That’s what happens when you give players expensive long-term contracts and they underperform. Martin’s play hasn’t been as bad as his deactivation suggests, with injuries and poor blocking playing a role, but he hasn’t played up to last year’s level either. The way he’s playing, he’s not worth that $7 million — but he’s still better than the 53rd man on the roster, which is what the Bucs would be getting by cutting him.
Incidentally Dirk Koetter was a little incoherent about Martin’s present and future with the team today. He defended Martin’s play this season, and still said that he thought Jacquizz Rodgers gave them a better chance against the Saints. Perhaps he’s preparing for the inevitable offseason controversy surrounding Martin.