Running back Doug Martin‘s suspension ends on Monday, but there’s no guarantee his career with the Buccaneers will resume. Asked by JoeBucsFan.com whether Martin will be embraced when his PED-related ban concludes after the team’s third game of the year, coach Dirk Koetter was far from effusive.
“Well, to be honest with you, I’m worried about Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and when Monday comes, we’ll worry about Monday,” Koetter said. “Because every Monday, or every day after a game, [G.M.] Jason [Licht] and I get together and, you know, Jason’s got his ideas on what roster changes have to go. There is that possibility for next week. And, you know, if we are going to bring Doug back on Monday, then we’re going to have to make room somehow. And that could be dictated by injury this week, so that’s why, you know, we’ll worry about it on Monday.”
In June, Koetter said something similar regarding the conclusion of Martin’s suspension.
“We will cross that bridge when we get to it, because, why worry about it until you have to?” Koetter said. “I don’t have experience with a guy taking three weeks off and then coming back. So you will have practices in there and we would have to see how we are doing as an offense, how we are doing with our running game. We will just have to see.”
The Buccaneers could cut Martin and avoid his entire 2017 salary, given that the suspension wiped out the fact that it was fully guaranteed. And so the team’s first-round pick from 2012, who played out his four-year rookie deal (the team didn’t pick up his option for 2016) and then signed a five-year, $35.75 million deal may soon become a free agent.
Even if the Bucs keep him, the hurricane-related one-week delay in the start of the regular-season has pushed his return up against the only short-week game of the year, making him unlikely to be able to contribute in Week Five against the Patriots on Thursday and essentially extending his four-game suspension to five.
That said, the Bucs through two games have gotten 82 yards rushing from Jacquizz Rodgers (3.4 yards per attempt), 47 from Peyton Barber, seven from Jameis Winston, and six from Charles Sims, who has added three catches for 16 yards. (Rodgers and Barber have none.)
So maybe the Bucs should consider welcoming Martin with open arms instead of making him sweat out the final days of his suspension. Based on what they’ve gotten out of their other tailbacks, Martin may still be the best option they have.