The Buccaneers Need A RB1

Buccaneers RB – Doug Martin


by Douglas O’Connor
follow me on Twitter @Ren_Daxt  

     The 5 year $35.7 million contract Doug Martin signed during the 2016 off season was intended to shore up the Buccaneers backfield for a minimum of 2 years. Giving the Bucs, along with Charles “Chuck” Sims, a extremely productive one, two combo that would make opposing defensive coordinators burn the midnight oil devising a game plan to stop the duo.

     Now with Martin’s suspension and Sims inability to run the ball between the tackles. The Bucs have two UDFA running backs , two blocking fullbacks, and an ex-college QB under contract to fill the Doug Martin void.  

     I’ll go over what the Bucs have, what’s available in free agency, and draft prospects the Bucs could be looking at to fill their huge running back need.

What The Bucs Have

     Doug Martin is under contract as of time of post, but that may change. There are so many factors to the Martin situation it’s hard to know what will happen. Here is what we know. 

  • Martin has served 1 game of his 4 game suspension. 
  • It takes a total of 5 failed banned substances test to receive a 4 game ban.
  • Martin’s 2017 guaranteed money can be voided by the Bucs.
  • This move will not accrue any dead money on the Bucs salary cap.
  • If this happens Martin will become an UFA.
  • Cutting martin will save the Bucs $27.7 million over the next 4 years.
  • The Bucs have until June 1st to make a decision.

     As a football fans we all hope that Martin can clean up and make it back into the league, but the fact is that trust was broken. Martin broke the trust of fans and most important the trust of his employer. An employer that just rewarded him with $19 million in guaranteed money.

     So the question is, does the Bucs need at running back trump the very real possibility of Martin getting suspended again?

     If Martin tests positive for the 6th time he will be banished from the league for an entire year and will have to apply for reinstatement. Given this, Martin’s history with injuries, and the cap room the Buccaneers would save. I think that Doug Martins days sporting the pewter and red on Sunday’s are over. We here at Real Bucs Talk wish him all the best but his contributions as a Buc are over.

     Charles Sims had his chance to shine in the 2016 season. After Doug Martin went down in week two the RB1 job was his to lose, and he did just that. His week three showing against the Rams was positive, averaging 4.2 yards per rush and 11.5 yards per reception. He even found the end zone. However the following week against Denver his averages dipped to 1.9 and 3.5 respectively.

     Many critics, myself included, pointed out that the holes were there but Sims tap dancing behind the line of scrimmage when asked to run between the tackles was killing the Bucs run game. Charles came up lame after the Broncos game and didn’t return for ten weeks. Essentially ending Sims chance to become a long term solution.

     Sims is a valuable cog to the Buccaneers offense but needs to get the ball in space to be most effective. He has excellent hands and has the speed to take it to the house from anywhere on the field but if it’s 3rd and 3 or less, Sims has shown he’s not the guy.

     Peyton Barber, a UDFA out of Auburn, was promoted from the practice squad to the 53 man roster on September 8th 2016 because of injuries. Spelling the starter for a few plays at a time was all the action Barber could muster. Barber runs with some power but lacks in the “make ya miss” part of his game, especially when running between the tackles.

     When…  Yes I wrote when the Bucs sign a free agent running back and draft another this off season. Barber will become a victim of the numbers game. There will simply be no room for him on the active roster. The Buccaneers would love to have him on the practice squad, but now that Peyton has some actual game tape. It won’t be long before a team plucks him away from the Bucs.

     Russell Hansbrough is another UDFA , bounced up and down from the practice squad to the 53 man roster all year long. He wiggled his way into two games but never logged a carry. I expect a similar role for Hansbrough in 2017.

     Austin Johnson & Quayvon Hicks are two old school fullbacks. If you need two tough yards or a Mike linebacker blocked, these are your guys. If you want to run a jet sweep around the edge leave these two on the bench. Jason Licht has been trying to find someone to fill the traditional fullback role since he became GM. Johnson or Hicks might be that guy.

   

   National Gridiron League- Australia
     
     Blake Sims has passed for the second most yards in a single game in the entire history of the University of Alabama. Now he’s trying to make a team in the NFL by switching to running back and isn’t giving up easily. In less than two years time Sims has tried out for the Packers and the Redskins. Signed with the Toronto Argonauts and the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. Even went as far as to sign with the Wollongong Devils of the Australian based NGL. (I didn’t know that league existed either). Finally returning to the states and landing with the Falcons and now our Buccaneers. Blake has a cool story but that’s about it. Sims might not last until the first round of cuts in training camp. Camp body, nothing more.

Free Agents

     Le’Veon Bell is by far and away the number one free agency running back in 2017. The chances that the Pittsburgh Steelers letting him leave town are less than a Mormon winning the lottery. So he’s off the table. Searching the next best free agent running backs turn up names like Isaiah Cromwell, Eddie Lacy and Danny Woodhead. Not exactly the whose who of RB1, which the Buccaneers desperately need. 

     Jacquizz Rodgers is the only Free agent running back that makes sense for the Bucs. Including his time in Atlanta, Rodgers has spent four years in Dirk Koetter’s offense. He can run with some power and has enough speed to run away from most linebackers and safeties. Rodgers is also above average in picking up the blitz. I don’t think he is a long term solution for the Bucs but he is the free agent to hold down the fort until the running back the Buccaneers take in the draft is up to NFL speed.

The 2017 NFL Draft

     Thankfully for the Buccaneers the 2017 NFL Draft is loaded with so much running back talent that a few teams could get NFL caliber starters as late as the 4th round. Since there are so many players that the Bucs could take I contacted a friend to help us out.

     Riley Auman, @junioraumanac an NFL Draft evaluator that really puts in the work and is a big Bucs fan. If I ever have a question about a college prospect, he is the first person I reach out to. Riley was kind enough to let me use his Top 20 Prospect Grades Chart. These are  precombine grades and are subject to change.
Updated look in at my top twenty-five running backs for this upcoming draft.

Stock Up? Marlon Mack.
Stock Down? Donnel Pumphrey pic.twitter.com/tPxKKARiFS

— Riley (@junioraumanac) February 11, 2017

Any of these top 17 players could be lining up in the Bucs backfield next season. Perine, Foreman, Mack and Hunt are my personal favorites.


What I Think Will Happen

     The Bucs will cut bait with Doug Martin. Bring in a 2nd tier free agent vet, Jacquizz Rodgers, to start the season. Buying time for the drafted rookie, 1-17 above, to become acclimated to the nuances of the NFL.

     I would like to thank Greg Auman with his help on the understanding of the Doug Martin contract.

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Thank You For Reading and as always GO BUCS!

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