Doug Martin

West Notes: Gates, Matthews, Raiders, Cards

While the Chargers have a lesser need at the tight end position than they did when they brought Antonio Gates back for a 16th season, a 17th Gates campaign with the Bolts remains on the radar. But the team has the future Hall of Famer on the back-burner for the time being. Budgetary issues represent the Chargers’ near-future concerns, with Anthony Lynn saying (via Pro Football Talk) Tuesday the team informed Gates it may be a bit before a decision is reached on whether or not to bring him back. Tom Telesco sounded optimistic about a Gates return in January. Hunter Henry stands to be healthy for training camp, and Virgil Green remains on the roster. The Chargers had this duo healthy during free agency last year and bid farewell to Gates. Henry’s injury brought the parties back together, with Gates making $2.5MM. It will be interesting to see if the Bolts have all three on their roster this season.

Here is the latest from the West divisions:

  • With Isaiah Crowell set to visit the Raiders on Thursday, the futures of Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin may soon become even more uncertain. However, Jon Gruden said (via The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, subscription required) the door remains open on Lynch. Martin, however, may see Crowell — if Gruden gets his wish and he signs — push him aside. Martin’s asking price may have been too high, per Tafur (on Twitter). The Raiders had wanted to re-sign Martin, but not much has transpired on this front since free agency opened. Martin bounced back after consecutive seasons of 2.9 yards per carry, averaging 4.2 per tote and being the Raiders’ primary rusher following Lynch’s injury.
  • Clay Matthews received a decent mid-level deal to sign with the Rams, with Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com reporting (on Twitter) the veteran outside linebacker’s contract is for two years and $12.75MM. Of that total, $6.5MM is guaranteed. Matthews’ deal can max out at $16.75MM. Matthews made more than $10MM in base salary in each of the past two seasons.
  • The NFL has intervened on the Broncos‘ ownership situation. Roger Goodell said 49ers GM Carmen Policy is serving as the arbitrator for the dispute between the Broncos’ Pat Bowlen Trust members and the owner’s two oldest daughters — Beth Bowlen Wallace and Amie Klemmer, via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post (Twitter links). This process began a few weeks ago. Both Bowlen Wallace and Klemmer have filed a motion to dismiss the arbitration, per Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (on Twitter). This is Policy’s first time serving as an NFL arbitrator. The Bowlen Trust members are seeking the arbitrator to determine who will take over as the next Broncos owner, among other points (per Jhabvala). Brittany Bowlen has long been viewed as the Trust’s preferred candidate, and the 29-year-old is expected to return to the Broncos this year.
  • A defensive tackle in the Chargers’ 4-3 defense the past two seasons, Darius Philon will return to a role as a 3-4 defensive end with his new team. The Cardinals are planning to use Philon as an end, Kliff Kingsbury said (via ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss, on Twitter).
  • C.J. Prosise saw another injury cost him time last season, and Pete Carroll said (via the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta) Tuesday the fourth-year running back underwent abdominal surgery recently. The Seahawks lost Mike Davis but still have Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. Carroll remains hopeful Prosise can contribute, but the former third-round pick has gained just 129 yards from scrimmage over the past two seasons.

Raiders Rumors: Martin, Cook, Trgovac

Here’s the latest out of Oakland:

  • The Raiders say they want to hold onto Marshawn Lynch, but they are also still intent on keeping pending free agent Doug Martin, Vic Tafur of The Athletic writes. Martin finished out the year with 723 rushing yards, four touchdowns, and a yards per carry average of 4.2, his best showing since 2015. In late November, Jon Gruden was adamant about re-signing Martin, so it’s little surprise to hear that he remains in the team’s plans.
  • Gruden also said the Raiders will work hard to re-sign tight end Jared Cook, Tafur writes. “I had a good meeting with Jared before he left,” Gruden said. “And we’ll do the best we can to get him back. It will be competitive. I’m sure there are a lot of teams who look at the tape and put him on their wish list.” Cook was named to the Pro Bowl as an alternate after he hauled in a career-high 68 catches for 896 yards and six TDs.
  • Former Buccaneers defensive line coach Brentson Buckner has taken the same job with the Raiders, but former DL coach Mike Trgovac is still in the team’s plans. Gruden says he’ll remain with the club in an advisory role.

Raiders Want To Keep Doug Martin

Doug Martin is slated to reach free agency in the spring, but Raiders head coach Jon Gruden would like to keep him from the open market. This week, Gruden indicated that he is hoping to keep the running back in 2019.

He’s a good back. I think I’ll say it again and again, he’s a very good player,” Gruden said (via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area). “He’s been a great player in this league. He’s running it. He’s catching it. He picked up some blitz that were flushed. We did a lot of good things on the film that I look at. We’re proud of what we did against a very good defense. We thought Doug Martin played extremely well.”

Martin, an Oakland native, joined the Raiders on a one-year deal that can be worth up to $1.475MM. Despite his inconsistent past, he could be in line for a pay bump thanks to his recent play. Since taking over for the injured Marshawn Lynch, Martin has averaged 4.6 yards per tote. His latest quality performance came on Sunday as he rushed for 51 yards and a touchdown off of eleven carries.

Beast Mode is also ticketed for free agency but it’s not clear whether Gruden & Co. want him back. Meanwhile, backup Jalen Richard will be a restricted free agent.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders To Sign Doug Martin

The Raiders have agreed to terms with Doug Martin, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, providing the veteran another opportunity after some down years.

This is a one-year deal for the seventh-year back, per Rapoport (on Twitter). Martin is entering what would be his age-29 season.

Connected to Martin last week when it was reported the team was high on the former Bucs back to lead to a Martin-Jon Gruden meeting, the Raiders will hope the formerly coveted free agent-turned-castoff can bounce back. Martin, though, struggled badly over the past two seasons since signing that a lucrative deal in 2016.

The two-time Pro Bowler has averaged 2.9 yards per carry in each of his past two seasons and has gained fewer than 200 receiving yards in each of those. Given that Marshawn Lynch is also not much of a pass-catching threat at this point, this would make for a somewhat curious fit.

Lynch remains on the Raiders’ roster and was due a $1MM roster bonus on Wednesday. The soon-to-be 32-year-old back is set to take up nearly $6MM of the Raiders’ cap, but the team can jettison Lynch mostly free of charge if it chooses.

It would seem Oakland’s roster is not big enough for all four of its current backs. Oakland also has elusive change-of-pace backs DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard in the fold. Neither were as productive last season as they were in 2016, however.

[RELATED: Raiders Depth Chart]

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders High On RB Doug Martin

Raiders coach Jon Gruden met with former Bucs running back Doug Martin and came away impressed with him as a person, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Rapoport adds that the Raiders are expected to make a strong push for Martin in free agency. 

The Raiders’ interest in Martin is interesting in light of Marshawn Lynch‘s unclear status with the team. Lynch is slated to earn $4MM in 2018 with up to $4MM in bonuses and it’s possible that the Raiders will move on from him before free agency gets underway.

Martin profiles as more of a complementary ‘back than a primary one in the wake of a down season in Tampa Bay. The 29-year-old missed time due to a PED suspension last year and has averaged just 2.9 yards per carry over the last two campaigns. Gruden likely doesn’t see Martin as a one-for-one replacement for Lynch, but he could be part of a running back by committee approach, one that is less costly than having Lynch at the top of the depth chart. Alternatively, he may view Martin as a solid backup for Beast Mode.

Martin topped 1,400 yards as a rookie and did it again in 2015, but he has not cleared 500 yards in his other four NFL seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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Buccaneers Release RB Doug Martin

The Buccaneers have released running back Doug Martin, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). Tampa Bay has since confirmed the move.Doug Martin (vertical)

As PFR noted in assessing the offseason outlook for Tampa Bay, Martin was one of the NFL’s least productive running backs in 2017. Among the 36 running backs who handled at least 125 carries last season, Martin finished dead last with a paltry 2.94 yards per rush. Pro Football Focus ranked Martin as the No. 53 RB among 58 qualifiers, while the 29-year-old placed last among backs in Football Outsiders‘ DVOA metric, which measures value on a per-play basis.

Martin, 29, has failed to top 450 rushing yards in either of the past two seasons as injuries and a four-game performance-enhancing drug suspension limited his time on the field. That PED ban voided the rest of the guarantees in Martin’s deal, and the Buccaneers’ favored contract structure — which involves no signing bonuses — means the club won’t incur any dead money by cutting Martin. Instead, Tampa Bay will pick up $6.75MM in salary cap space.

With Martin off the roster, the Buccaneers will almost surely search for a new running back in free agency or through the draft. Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber are still under contract, but neither is likely capable of being a top-tier back, while fellow runner Charles Sims is scheduled to hit free agency in March. Tampa Bay could consider free agents such as Carlos Hyde, Le’Veon Bell, Dion Lewis, or Isaiah Crowell, or select a back such as Ronald Jones (USC), Derrius Guice (LSU), or Sony Michel (Georgia) on Day 1 or 2 of the draft.

Because he’s a vested veteran, Martin will now hit the free agent market immediately. While his recent track record is uninspiring, Martin will get the jump on the rest of the 2018 free agent running back class, perhaps giving him an opportunity to land a deal before free agency officially opens next month.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers Activate RB Doug Martin

The Buccaneers have activated running back Doug Martin from suspension, the club announced today. In a related move, Tampa Bay waived tight end Alan Cross.Doug Martin (vertical)

Martin, 28, was handed a four-game PED suspension near the tail end of the 2016 season, so he was able to serve one game of that ban last year. Because the Buccaneers’ Week 1 game was postponed due to weather concerns, Martin is just now finishing up his stay on the suspended list. The ban voided the remaining guarantees on Martin’s contract, and Tampa Bay hasn’t promised that Martin will reclaim his starting job when he returns.

But the Buccaneers’ rushing offense has faltered enough through three games that it’s difficult to imagine Martin not taking the bulk of the carries immediately. Jacquizz Rodgers, Peyton Barber, and Charles Sims have handled the ball for Tampa Bay so far, but the club ranks just 22nd in rushing DVOA and is averaging only 3.8 yards per carry.

Through five NFL seasons, Martin has posted only two campaigns that can be considered successful — 2012 and 2015, when he topped 1,400 yards rushing and scored 17 combined touchdowns. The rest of his pro years have been lackluster, as Martin wasn’t able to top even 500 yards in either 2013, 2014, or 2016. He’s signed through 2020, but the Buccaneers can get out of Martin’s contract at any time.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers Trim Roster To 53

The Buccaneers have moved their roster to 53 players by making the following transactions:

Waived:

Waived/injured:

Released:

Placed on IR:

Placed on Reserve/Suspended List:

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.