After a big 2015 campaign,
signed a five-year, $35.75-million contract to remain with the Buccaneers. How will his numbers stack up against running backs that had their big years rewarded with big contracts in recent years? Here, we take a look at what to expect from Martin as he enters the first year of his new contract.
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“…Contract year. We’ve all been there.” -Dirk Koetter on signs of a Doug Martin resurgence in the 2015 preseason
Koetter’s words turned out to be the truth as Martin produced his best year since his rookie season. He rushed for 1,402 yards and six touchdowns on 288 carries. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry and played all 16 games for the first time since he was a rookie.
Martin was rewarded for his big contract year, signing an extension to stay in Tampa Bay. What can he do in year one of his new deal?
Looking at some of the running backs from recent years that signed big deals after productive seasons, two trends emerged. Some regressed, proving that their best years were behind them. Others stayed consistent with what they’d done in earlier years, proving the investments their teams made in them were poised to pay off. Here, we break down those numbers to project what can be expected of Martin this year.
Some big names are found in this category as the comfort of a new contract or the change of scenery may have led to a decline in production. Each of these running backs put up solid years before signing new contracts:
Johnson (2010): 316 carries, 1,364 yards, 4.3 yards per carry, 11 touchdowns in 16 games
Stewart (2011): 142 carries, 761 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 4 touchdowns in 16 games
Jones-Drew (2013): 234 carries, 803 yards, 3.4 yards per carry, 5 touchdowns in 15 games
Murray (2014): 392 carries, 1,845 yards, 4.7 yards per carry, 13 touchdowns in 16 games
McCoy (2014): 312 carries, 1,319 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 5 touchdowns in 16 games
Lynch (2014): 280 carries, 1,306 yards, 4.7 yards per carry, 13 touchdowns in 16 games
The biggest thing to note here is that, of the six players, there was only one missed game (Jones-Drew in 2013). Following their respective big years, each player was either given a contract extension or a deal elsewhere. With all six of these players, there was a decline in production, though on varying scales:
Johnson (first year of 4-year extension with Titans): 262 carries, 1,047 yards, 4.0 yards per carry, 4 touchdowns in 16 games
Stewart (first year of 5-year extension with Panthers): 93 carries, 336 yards, 3.6 yards per carry, 1 touchdown in 9 games
Jones-Drew (first year of 3-year deal with Raiders): 43 carries, 96 yards, 2.2 yards per carry, 0 touchdowns in 12 games
Murray (first year of 5-year deal with Eagles): 193 carries, 702 yards, 3.6 yards per carry, 6 touchdowns in 16 games
McCoy (first year of 5-year deal with Bills): 203 carries, 895 yards, 4.4 yards per carry, 3 touchdowns in 12 games
Lynch (first year of 2-year extension with Seahawks): 111 carries, 417 yards, 3.8 yards per carry, 3 touchdowns in 7 games
With this group, there were different degrees of regression. With Johnson and McCoy, regression might be too harsh of a word, but after signing new contracts, their numbers did decline. Each had fewer carries, especially McCoy, who missed four games. Murray’s regression, though partly due to his workload the previous year and the incredible numbers he put up in it, is evident in every category. With about 200 fewer carries, his numbers were bound to decline. But, the other three saw heavy regression as none of them reached 500 yards. Stewart and Lynch missed significant time with injuries and Jones-Drew failed to get going at any point with the Raiders. Lynch and Jones-Drew both retired following the first year of their new contracts.
Each of these running backs produced big numbers that led to new contracts in recent years:
Foster (2011): 278 carries, 1,224 yards, 4.4 yards per carry, 10 touchdowns in 13 games
Forte (2011): 203 carries, 997 yards, 4.9 yards per carry, 3 touchdowns in 12 games
Charles (2013): 259 carries, 1,287 yards, 5.0 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns in 15 games
Gore (2014): 255 carries, 1,106 yards, 4.3 yards per carry, 4 touchdowns in 16 games
Interestingly enough, unlike the players noted above that saw regression, these players (with the exception of Gore) didn’t play every game during their contract years. It’s possible that a smaller workload helped these players stay consistent after inking new deals:
Foster (first year of 5-year extension with Texans): 351 carries, 1,424 yards, 4.1 yards per carry, 15 touchdowns in 16 games
Forte (first year of 4-year extension with Bears): 248 carries, 1,094 yards, 4.4 yards per carry, 5 touchdowns in 15 games
Charles (first year of 2-year extension with Chiefs): 206 carries, 1,033 yards, 5.0 yards per carry, 9 touchdowns in 15 games
Gore (first year of 3-year deal with Colts): 260 carries, 967 yards, 3.7 yards per carry, 6 touchdowns in 16 games
Each of these players turned in years similar to the ones they put up the year before signing new contracts. A pattern that could be suitable for Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin in 2016 would be the one put up by Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles.
A year after putting up 1,287 yards on 259 carries (5.0 yards per carry), Charles had less touches and less yards, but still the same 5.0 YPC. This is a trend that can be expected of Martin this year.
Despite signing an extension to stay in Tampa Bay, Martin will likely have less touches this year, with second-year quarterback Jameis Winston having more on his plate and Charles Sims getting a bigger workload. Martin put up his big contract year behind an offensive line that featured two rookies. With the line staying mostly the same other than the retirement of Logan Mankins and addition of J.R. Sweezy, no. 22 should have some solid running room this fall.
Other than having a smaller workload, it’s reasonable to expect a similar yards per carry output by Martin. He is only 27 as he enters his fifth season, and he has only played two full seasons. Though he struggled with injuries in years two and three of his rookie contract, he has only been through the wear-and-tear of a full NFL season twice. After re-emerging as one of the league’s most promising running backs last year, Martin will continue to play a big role for an improving Tampa Bay offense in 2016.
What do you think, Bucs fans? What do you expect from Doug Martin this year?