The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have yet to decide whether they’ll keep Doug Martin on the roster, though most signs point to yes. They didn’t draft a direct replacement, they didn’t sign a direct replacement, Jason Licht and Dirk Koetter have been publicly positive about his progress, especially in the last month, and the team doesn’t have many alternatives.
Martin has a history of being extremely inconsistent year-to-year, and he is due to earn some $5.8 million this year. He’s also suspended for the first three games of the year. Those three things definitely don’t help him, but they’re not enough to kick him off the roster.
For one, the suspension means the Bucs don’t need to make a decision until the third week of the regular season. They don’t him owe him any salary if they cut him before that, and he won’t take up a roster spot while suspended.
For two, that $5.7 million salary (his 16-game $7 million salary, minus the 3 suspended games he won’t get paid) is peanuts. The Bucs had no problem paying Alterraun Verner nearly $7 million last year, even though he’d shown them no real reason to believe he’d be more than a mediocre starter.
That’s because the Bucs are not lacking in cap space. They have some $27 million in cap space right now, according to Over The Cap, and no one to spend it on. They’re set to pay Evan Smith $4.5 million, J.J. Wilcox nearly $4 million, Josh Robinson $3.1 million, Chris Conte nearly $3 million, Joe Hawley nearly $3 million, and George Johnson just over $2 million.
None of those players are starters. If the Bucs want to save money, they can start by looking at that list of players. But: they don’t need to. They’ll likely keep most of them in part-time or backup roles, because they have money to spare and these players are useful additions. Just like Doug Martin will be, even if he isn’t a completely revitalized player.
Of course, things might change if the Bucs stop seeing the positive progress out of Martin this offseason. The preseason will likely be important, as will his dedication during his three-game suspension. But as long as he keeps looking good in practice, he’s likely to be at least somewhat valuable in real games, too.
And hey, if Martin turns out to actually be revitalized, the Bucs will be smacking themselves upside the head for letting him go over a measly (by NFL starting salary standards) $5.7 million.