Doug Martin

NFC Notes: T. Johnson, Elliott, Martin

Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson is clearly disappointed that he did not receive a long-term deal and that he will be play out the season under his second consecutive franchise tag, as Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com writes. Johnson said his focus is now on the field, but he added, “I wanted [a multi-year deal]; I wanted it big time. I believe the Rams are going in a different direction at the end of the season. It’s out of my control.” 

While it is impossible to say for certain whether the Rams will move on from Johnson at the end of the year, it does seem as if that will be the case. Indeed, as Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports tweets, Los Angeles put the tag on Johnson because it wanted to see what new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips could do with him. If Phillips had not joined the club, Johnson would already be elsewhere, per Robinson, and even with Phillips on the sidelines, it is difficult to see Johnson elevating his play enough to convince the Rams to give him elite CB money on a long-term basis.

Let’s take a look at a few more rumors from the NFC:

  • Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said embattled running back Ezekiel Elliott met with NFL officials in New York last month to discuss the domestic violence allegations levied against him. While Jones does not have a timeframe for the league’s much-anticipated decision, he did say “everything is in place” for that decision, as Todd Archer of ESPN.com writes.
  • We heard earlier this month that the Buccaneers are well-stocked at running back even without Doug Martin, who will miss the first three games of the 2017 season due to suspension. And, as Dan Graziano of ESPN.com writes, GM Jason Licht is so pleased with his stable of RBs that he says Martin may not be the starter when he returns in Week 4. That may just be GM-speak to give Martin a little extra motivation, but it underscores how comfortable Tampa Bay is with its backs, who do offer a nice variety of skill-sets.
  • New Saints offensive lineman Orlando Franklin started all 16 games for the Chargers last year after an injury-plagued 2015, but he graded out as one of the seven worst qualified guards in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. However, Joel Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate writes that Franklin had knee surgery in January, and Franklin says he was never fully healthy during his time in San Diego. This year, he expects to return to the form he displayed during his best seasons in Denver.
  • The Lions were the first team to reach out to LB Zach Orr when he announced his intention to come out of retirement, but Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press says Detroit is unlikely to sign Orr, which is consistent with a report we heard yesterday afternoon.
  • Eagles rookie CB Randall Goforth has suffered a season-ending ACL tear, per Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter). Goforth, a UDFA from UCLA, had a real chance for playing time given Philadelphia’s shaky cornerback situation.
  • Giants rookie safety Jadar Johnson, whom the team signed as a UDFA this year, has decided to retire from football, as Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network tweets.
  • Redskins RB Keith Marshall tore his right patella tendon and will miss the 2017 season, per John Keim of ESPN.com. Washington selected Marshall in the seventh round of the 2016 draft, but he missed the entire 2016 season with an elbow injury. He now will have to wait until 2018 to get his NFL career on track.

NFC Notes: Lions, Bucs, Falcons, 49ers

By the time Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s career ends, he could supplant Peyton Manning as the NFL’s all-time earnings king, observes Joel Corry of CBSSports.com. Manning made nearly $250MM during his career, and, as Corry writes, Stafford has a few factors on his side that might help him eventually surpass the former Colt and Bronco. Stafford entered the league at a young age (21), for one, and as the No. 1 pick two years before the league introduced the rookie wage scale. That enabled him to land a mammoth deal (six years, $72MM) prior to ever playing a professional down. Further, Stafford has already signed a lucrative extension, having inked a three-year, $53MM pact in 2013. By agreeing to that short-term deal, Stafford is now in position to cash in once again by 2018. To this point, the 29-year-old has made more money through the age of 28 ($110.5MM) than anyone else in league history, per Corry, who adds that Stafford will have a chance to go past $200MM by 2021 and might even hit $300MM before his playing days are over.

Now for the latest on a few NFC backfields:

  • Suspended running back Doug Martin doesn’t seem like a sure bet to play a down for the Buccaneers in 2017, as head coach Dirk Koetter told ESPN’s Wendi Nix on Thursday (via JoeBucsFan.com) that it’s “yet to be determined” what will happen at the end of his three-game ban. That jibes with a February report from FanRag’s Roy Cummings, who relayed that the Bucs will “play the Martin situation out.” Tampa Bay can afford to take its time with Martin, whose $7MM salary for next season is no longer guaranteed on account of his suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. It could help his cause, though, that the Buccaneers didn’t use a high draft pick on a runner, waiting until the fifth round to grab Jeremy McNichols, and haven’t added any notable veterans to their backfield this offseason.
  • While Falcons running back Devonta Freeman won’t hold out in hopes of landing a new contract, he continues to seek top-tier money relative to his position. “I want to be elite paid. Whatever that is, that’s where I want to be — straight up,” Freeman told Josina Anderson of ESPN. Freeman is in lockstep with his agent, Kristin Campbell, who declared prior to Super Bowl LI that the 25-year-old should be in line for “elite” money. As of now, Freeman’s not on track to approach the NFL’s highest-paid backs in 2017, the final year of his contract, as he’s slated to make $1.8MM. There’s still plenty of time for an extension to come together, of course, and both Freeman and the Falcons have made it clear that they want to work something out.
  • Rookie fourth-rounder Joe Williams will have a legitimate shot to overtake Carlos Hyde as the 49ers’ No. 1 running back in 2017, opines Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. The John Lynch– and Kyle Shanahan-led Niners traded up in the draft for Williams and are quite bullish on the ex-Utah star, notes Maiocco, who also points out that Hyde is entering a contract year. San Francisco, then, isn’t tied to Hyde for the long haul, and its new regime has no built-in loyalty to the three-year veteran. It’s worth noting that Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com reported last month that the 49ers’ bigwigs aren’t enamored of Hyde.

NFC Notes: D. Martin, Giants, Joeckel

We heard last month that the Buccaneers may retain RB Doug Martin, and Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times explains why Martin remains relevant to the Bucs. For one, Tampa Bay did not select a running back in the draft that could make an instant impact, so Martin is still the most talented back on the roster. But the Bucs do have enough talent at the position to get away with a running back-by-committee until Martin returns from suspension in October, so they can afford to be patient. Plus, Martin has something to prove, and he has shown that, when motivated, he can be highly productive. The team has expressed a great deal of optimism about Martin’s prospects since the draft, so it is looking more likely than ever that he will play out the 2017 campaign with the Bucs.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • The Giants were one of the most logical suitors for free agent RB LeGarrette Blount, but the Patriots’ decision to use a May 9 tender on Blount probably takes New York out of the picture, according to James Kratch of NJ.com. Plus, Kratch believes the team’s reported interest in adding a veteran back was always a bit overblown, as the Giants have three young RBs that they want to give opportunities to, along with veteran Shane Vereen.
  • In the same piece, Kratch observes that Giants cornerstones Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Landon Collins, and Odell Beckham will all reach the end of their rookie contracts over the next two seasons. Kratch says it will be difficult for Big Blue to re-sign all four, but it’s not impossible, and he lays out how New York could go about it.
  • Former West Virginia center Tyler Orlosky is part of the Eagles‘ 2017 class of UDFAs, and as Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com writes, it was a bit surprising that Orlosky chose to sign with Philadelphia. After all, he garnered plenty of interest as a UDFA, and the Eagles have three centers on their roster that they are invested in to some degree. But Shorr-Parks suggests that Orlosky may know something we don’t, and if Orlosky performs well in camp, Shorr-Parks says Philadelphia could ship veteran Jason Kelce, whom the club has been trying to trade anyway, off to the highest bidder.
  • Luke Joeckel represents the biggest investment the Seahawks made in free agency this offseason, but given his disappointing tenure as a left tackle for the Jaguars — which ultimately forced him to move to guard — and his season-ending knee injury in 2016, there is plenty of skepticism about his ability to bolster Seattle’s underwhelming O-line. But Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable is bullish on Joeckel’s outlook. As Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com writes, Cable said during a recent radio interview that Joeckel played as well as any guard in the league before his injury last season, and he believes his coaching will only make Joeckel better. Of course, Joeckel only signed a one-year pact, so if he does play well and stay healthy, the Seahawks will likely have to pay a premium to keep him.
  • The Rams‘ center position is hardly settled, as injury-prone John Sullivan sits atop the depth chart with only Demetrius Rhaney, a special-teams contributor and a natural guard, behind him. As such, Rich Hammond of the Los Angeles Daily News writes that UDFA Jake Eldrenkamp, who did not play center at all in college but whose body and skill-set are best-suited to center at the professional level, has a real chance of winning the starting job this summer. At the very least, he could make the team as Sullivan’s backup.

Latest On Buccaneers RB Doug Martin

Running back Doug Martin has met with the Buccaneers and is expected to be present for the beginning of the club’s offseason program on Monday, according to Roy Cummings of FanRag. Martin reportedly entered a treatment facility following the announcement of a four-game PED ban, and Tampa Bay sources tell Cummings that Martin is now “all good.”Doug Martin (vertical)

[RELATED: Bucs Rework J.R. Sweezy’s Contract]

The Buccaneers may yet retain Martin, and are expected to let the Martin situation “play out” before making a final decision. Part of the reason for that stance is contractual — because Martin was suspended, his previously guaranteed $7MM base salary for the 2017 campaign is no longer guaranteed. Additionally, Martin is banned until Week 3 of next season, so Tampa doesn’t have to make a call on Martin until nearly a month into the season.

If Tampa Bay’s offseason moves at the running back position are any indication, the club may be willing to give Martin another chance. The Buccaneers did re-sign Jacquizz Rodgers to a two-year deal, but otherwise left their backfield unchanged. Charles Sims, Peyton Barber, and Russell Hansbrough are the other backs currently on Tampa’s roster.

Of course, the Buccaneers could consider a running back at some point in the draft, including at pick No. 19. They’ve met with a number of backs over the past several weeks, including controversial Oklahoma prospect Joe Mixon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Bucs, Saints, Hankins

We heard earlier this month that the Buccaneers have “loose plans” for Doug Martin, which seemed to substantiate a prior report that the team was considering retaining their long-time running back. Martin, who will be suspended for the first three games of next season as part of a four-game ban he received in 2016 for violating the league’s PED policy, recently completed a voluntary rehab stint and met with head coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht a week before the scouting combine. Koetter and Licht both had nice things to say about Martin, but they were still vague on his future with the club.

As Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times writes, there are a number of factors working against Martin’s return, including his injury history, the above-referenced suspension, and the fact that his salary is no longer guaranteed as a result of the suspension. Cummings believes the team would be wise to select a running back from the deep class of RBs in the 2017 draft, and if the Bucs land one of this year’s top prospects, that might spell the end of Martin’s tenure in Tampa Bay.

Now for more from the NFC. We took a swing around the AFC earlier today:

  • Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders says that the Buccaneersrecent signing of Nick Folk suggests that the team is prepared to move on from Roberto Aguayo, though Tampa Bay could carry two kickers next season if need be and have Aguayo serve as a kickoff specialist if he cannot beat out Folk for full-time duties. Folk recorded just 39 touchbacks in 2016, the third-worst mark in the league, though he and Aguayo averaged the same distance average on kickoffs.
  • The Saints need to bolster their pass rush in 2017, and after signing Alex Okafor earlier this week, they are now meeting with one of the better pass-rushing prospects in this year’s draft class. As Herbie Teope of The Times-Picayune writes, the club is meeting with Kansas State DE Jordan Willis today. Willis is considered a second- or third-round prospect, and New Orleans has been monitoring him in recent months.
  • Free agent safety Duke Ihenacho will apparently not return to the Redskins in 2017. As Peter Hailey of CSNMidAtlantic.com writes, Ihenacho fired off several cryptic tweets over the past couple of days indicating that his time with Washington is over. Given that the Redskins recently acquired D.J. Swearinger and plan to move Su’a Cravens back to safety, Ihenacho’s departure makes sense.
  • Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com believes there is currently a 50-50 chance that DT Johnathan Hankins returns to the Giants. He also hears that Big Blue wants to add a physical power back to complement Paul Perkins, and LeGarrette Blount could be an option in that regard.
  • Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press examines seven free agents still on the market that could benefit the Lions, including LB Zach Brown and DE Chris Long.

NFC Rumors: Bucs, Glennon, Graham

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht expects quarterback Mike Glennon to test the open market, but the door is not closed to a return, as Alex Marvez of the Sporting News tweets. Licht added that the team offered Glennon a contract extension “quite a while ago.”

In a weak crop of free agent quarterbacks, Glennon stands as one of the best available options. Glennon hasn’t seen the field much since the Bucs drafted Jameis Winston in 2015, but talent evaluators are still bullish on the 6’7″ signal caller. The 27-year-old could wind up as someone’s starter in 2017. At worst, he should command a handsome payday as a backup.

With tons of news coming out of the Combine today, here’s a look at all things NFC:

  • General manager John Schneider says there is no question that Jimmy Graham will be part of Seahawks next season, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets. The Seahawks could have opened up $10MM in spending room with no dead money by releasing the tight end.
  • Bears GM Ryan Pace used the term “fluid” describe Jay Cutler’s situation and said keeping him is an option (Twitter link via Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times). Personally, I don’t think the Bears will seriously entertain another season with Cutler.
  • The Buccaneers are not expected to aggressively pursue Adrian Peterson at this point, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Things can change, but the team still has “loose plans” for Doug Martin, Fowler adds.
  • The Cardinals are scheduled to meet with Calais Campbell’s agent this week in Indy, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets. Campbell is slated to be an unrestricted free agent March 9 and Arizona has at least some interest in finding out what it would cost to bring him back. I have Campbell ranked as the most talented edge defender on the market this year, so I would not be surprised to see the Cardinals get outbid for him.
  • Cardinals coach Bruce Arians says the team would like to have Chris Johnson back next year (Twitter link via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com). Last month, we ranked Johnson as one of the 15 best running backs in free agency.
  • Arians says the Cardinals wants to re-sign cornerback Marcus Cooper, but his price be too high (Twitter link via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com). When asked about Cooper and other potential defensive losses, Arians said, “hopefully we’re prepared.”
  • Cardinals coach Bruce Arians hopes the team will retain center A.Q. Shipley (Twitter link via Weinfuss).

Buccaneers May Retain RB Doug Martin

After running back Doug Martin was suspended four games for PED usage at the tail end of last season, the general thought was that Martin wasn’t long for the Buccaneers roster. However, Tampa Bay intends to “play the Martin situation out” and see where things stand in a few months, according to Roy Cummings of FanRag Sports.Doug Martin (vertical)

[RELATED: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Depth Chart]

Part of the reason for the Buccaneers’ stance on Martin is contractual — because Martin was suspended, his previously guaranteed $7MM base salary for the 2017 campaign is no longer guaranteed. Additionally, Martin is banned until Week 3 of next season, so Tampa doesn’t have to make a call on Martin until nearly a month into the season.

At that point, the Bucs will be able to more fully assess their needs and options at the running back position, and decide if retaining Martin is worth the risk. One player who could fill the void in Tampa Bay’s backfield is Jacquizz Rodgers, who rushed for 560 yards in his first season with the Buccaneers. Rodgers is a pending free agent, however, and though he appears to be a priority for Tampa, the club has not started a dialogue regarding a new deal, per Cummings.

Because the Buccaneers rarely use large prorated signing bonuses, they can release Martin without any dead money accruing on their salary cap. If he is cut, the 28-year-old Martin — who averaged only 2.9 yards per carry last season — would join a free agent running back class that includes Le’Veon Bell, Latavius Murray, LeGarrette Blount, and Eddie Lacy

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs RB Doug Martin Suspended For PEDs

We now have some clarity on why Doug Martin is “stepping away” from the Buccaneers in advance of their regular season finale. Martin confirmed that he has been suspended for four games by the NFL. Though Martin’s statement was vague as to the exact nature of the ban, the NFL says that it is a PED policy violation, not a recreational drug violation. Doug Martin (vertical)

I was notified last week of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy,” Martin said. “My initial instinct was to appeal the suspension and finish the season with my teammates. However, after numerous discussions with people close to me — including Coach [Dirk] Koetter — I am starting the suspension immediately so I can enter a treatment facility and receive the help I truly need…On the field, I must be strong and determined to push through both pain and injuries to become an elite NFL running back. Off the field, I have tried that same approach in my personal life. My shortcomings in this area have taught me both that I cannot win these personal battles alone and that there is no shame in asking for help.”

Martin tested positive for Adderall and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears that is one of the issues that he is dealing with. While Martin may have been taking Adderall recreationally, it is classified as a performance-enhancer by the NFL for its stimulating properties.

If Martin misses this weekend’s game plus three in 2017, he’ll forfeit $1.47MM in base salary. However, it’s not a given that he’ll even be under contract with the Bucs for next season. As a result of the PED suspension, Martin’s $7MM 2017 salary guarantee will void, and that would allow the Bucs to release him without major penalty.

Based on his statement, it sounds like Martin was dependent on substances off of the field, but not necessarily using them for advancement on the field. With that in mind, one would expect Martin to appeal the suspension and have it re-classified as a substance abuse policy violation. Martin won’t appeal the suspension right now, but it remains to be seen whether he can have the suspension altered with the help of the NFLPA.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Doug Martin “Stepping Away” From Bucs

Running back Doug Martin is “stepping away” from the Buccaneers to take care of some personal issues, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Martin was bumped from the active roster as a healthy scratch in Week 16 and the team was prepared to do the same in the regular season finale. The running back is expected to release a statement this afternoon.Doug Martin (vertical)

[RELATED: Buccaneers Place TE Cameron Brate On IR]

In Martin’s stead, Jacquizz Rodgers is expected to get the start. Running back Charles Sims is headed back to IR after suffering a pectoral injury. Behind Rodgers will be running backs Peyton Barber and Russell Hansbrough.

Last year, Martin gained 1,673 yards from scrimmage and scored seven touchdowns. He parlayed that success into a five-year, $35.7MM extension prior to the start of free agency. He’s slated to be under contract with Tampa Bay through 2020 and his guarantees mean that there’s little point to releasing him before the start of next season.

This weekend’s regular season finale will, in all likelihood, be the end of the line for the Bucs. In addition to winning their own game, the Bucs can only make the playoffs if they also see wins from the Cowboys, Titans, Colts, 49ers, and Lions with the Giants tying the Redskins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers To Bench Doug Martin Again

Buccaneers running back Doug Martin was a healthy scratch against New Orleans over the weekend and he’ll also be inactive for the season finale against Carolina, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times writes. With Martin out of the picture, the Bucs plan to sign running back Russell Hansbrough off of the Giants’ practice squad. Doug Martin (vertical)

Since returning from a hamstring injury, Martin has struggled to regain the form that made him a top running back in the league. Now, his future with the Bucs is not clear as the offseason approaches. Martin is signed to a five-year, $35.75MM contract he inked last March, including $15MM guaranteed. Releasing Martin this offseason would not save the team any money against the 2017 cap, so their options are limited.

Jacquizz Rodgers started in place of Martin on Saturday and rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Although he’s had his moments this season, like his 154-yard game against the Niners in October, Rodgers might not be what the team has in mind for a No. 1 RB next season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.