The running back situation as arguably been the most talked about situation regarding the Buccaneers. It makes sense, it’s not as if the position looked good last season. Other than a couple of solid performances out of Jacquizz Rodgers, the position group played very poorly in 2016. Add the Doug Martin suspension to the mix and you have a situation that clearly is in flux.
As we head into the next phase of the off-season, the depth chart hasn’t changed all that much. Jeremy McNichols was added to the mix, but other than that it has stayed stagnant. That includes Doug Martin. Many across the Bucs landscape, myself included, believed that Martin would be gone because they would pick a running back early in the draft. They didn’t, and Martin remains in Tampa, at least for now.
So what is going to happen with Martin? Well, his status is publicly uncertain. Here is what coach Dirk Koetter had to say to Wendi Nix of NFL Live when asked about his running back (via Joe Bucs Fan):
Well, we have a deep group of running backs. I mean, mainly due to injury last year we had to play a lot of guys. Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, Peyton Barber are all guys who played for us last year. Then, we drafted Jeremy McNichols in the fifth round out of Boise State. So, we will be going somewhat with a running back by committee. And then it is still yet to be determined what is going to happen at the end of Doug’s suspension. But Doug has sure done a good job up to this point with our offseason program.
Our good friend Cody Williams at NFL Spin Zone believes these comments to be very telling. He feels the lack of commitment means they are leaning towards letting Martin go, and that his non-guaranteed contract will make things just that much easier.
On the other hand, I respectfully take things a bit differently here. Remember the saying, “Actions speak louder than words”? Well, that applies in this case.
How do I mean? The Bucs have had ample opportunity to find Martin’s replacement if they were ready to give up on him. The free agent market had the likes of Latavius Murray in it, as well as Adrian Peterson. There were also great running backs in the early part of the draft. Everyone in the world had the Bucs taking Dalvin Cook. Had they done that, there was a solid chance that Martin would have been released within the week.
That didn’t happen. Instead, the Bucs waited until round five to address the position with Jeremy McNichols. Could he be a diamond in the rough? Sure, but can we count on a fifth round draft pick to be the guy that takes over for Doug? Certainly not, at least not yet.
The Bucs actions are telling. There were clear replacements for Martin available. None of whom were brought in. That is telling.