As each day passes, the likelihood that Doug Martin returns gets more and more grim. The Buccaneers know that and are taking the necessary steps to move on without him.
Pewter Report tweeted that the Buccaneers have begun their inquiries should Doug Martin not return to the team after free agency kicks off Wednesday. As many have speculated, it appears the top two targets are former Dolphin Lamar Miller and former Jet Chris Ivory.
Now, I said my piece on Lamar Miller already, but I can understand the Bucs looking into bringing him to Tampa. He is a dynamic, home run threat when he’s in. My biggest concern has been the ability for him to be a feature back, something he has yet to do. Not saying he can’t do it, but if he can, why hasn’t he? Two things are clear, however: first, the Bucs are indeed showing interest. Second, Lamar Miller is not returning to Miami, per the Sun Sentinel’s Omar Kelly.
Given the crop of free agent running backs, outside of Doug Martin, I would say Lamar Miller is the most attractive option. Given his age, speed, and the lack of use in Miami, Miller could fit well here, but I still have my reservations.
The other option is, of course, Chris Ivory. Ivory had a solid season in 2015 for the New York Jets, rushing for 1,070 yards and seven touchdowns. Over the last three seasons, all with New York, Ivory has 2,724 yards and 16 touchdowns, not mention only seven fumbles. His career really began to take off after leaving New Orleans, where his highest season total was 716 rushing yards in his rookie season.
Ivory wouldn’t be a bad pickup, either. Given Miller and Sims’ similar playing styles, Ivory provides that complimentary factor. He’d be the power, the guy who runs like he’s mad at the grass, whereas Sims comes in to provide the change of pace and speed factor. Ivory, who turns 28 later this month, has been trending up recently and truly hitting his stride as a consistent, feature back.
Neither of these players seems to be looking for the same kind of pay day that Doug Martin is seeking, which also plays into the Bucs’ hands. Although the Bucs could easily afford to give Martin a DeMarco Murray type deal, they have a limit in mind for a player, nearing thirty years old, with 50% of his career shortened by injury thus far.
Perhaps other teams will look at Martin the same way and he won’t get the kind of compensation he is currently seeking, but we won’t know that until free agency officially kicks off. It’s somewhat reassuring, albeit under disappointing circumstances, to see Jason Licht and the Bucs being proactive about their running back situation. Bucs fans, for the most part, want Doug back. Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht want Doug back. Doug himself said he wants to remain in Tampa, but it appears the stars are just not aligning for that to happen.
In any case, bringing in Ivory or Miller would be an understandable, necessary move. If nothing else, one of these guys may bridge the gap enough until next off-season when the draft class is loaded with running back talent. That would kick off 2017 with a young offensive core. Jameis Winston would be entering his third year, along with draft classmates Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith. Mike Evans would be entering his fourth season, and a rookie running back would round out the group of “Buccaneers triplets” that would, hopefully, return the Bucs to a consistent contender.
Obviously, a lot of that is speculation. There’s no reason to believe, at this point, the Bucs are going to look for a band-aid at running back, especially when they are targeting arguably the top three names at the position in free agency.
But what say you, Bucs fans? If Martin walks, who would you like to see wear pewter and red? Lamar Miller or Chris Ivory? Sound off in the comments below.