It's not breaking news at all that the Bucs' decided not to use their franchise tag on Doug Martin. What will be surprising news is if Martin, in turn, ends up leaving the franchise as soon as next week.
As we inch closer and closer to free agency beginning next Wednesday, the likelihood of Martin playing elsewhere in 2016 and beyond becomes much more likely. As a matter of fact, the key day may be on Monday, once the legal tampering time begins 48 hours before players can officially sign with other teams. If Martin gets to that point without a new contract from the Bucs, my assumption would be that he's as good as gone.
If Martin does in fact leave, here are the top names to replace him in free agency:
Lamar Miller | Miami Dolphins
This would likely be my personal favorite, if the price is right. Miller is younger, likely cheaper, faster, a better receiver, and is more durable than Martin. With the Dolphins currently $3.5 million OVER the salary cap, I don't really see them being able to keep Miller, and actually, if any team puts in a legit offer to Olivier Vernon, I just can't see them keeping him either. The combination of Miller and Charles Sims would give the Bucs legit homerun threats at running back who both can catch the football. Imagine if Martin would have caught that wide open pass against the Giants instead of letting it go right through his hands. Ugh.
Matt Forte | Chicago Bears
The biggest concern I have about Martin leaving is not having a reliable workhorse in the backfield behind Jameis Winston. Matt Forte is past his prime, but may have a couple good years left if allowed to split carries. Well, with Charles Sims, Forte wouldn't be asked to carry the full load, but also put a reliable veteran in the offensive huddle for Jameis Winston to lean on when needed. Add in that Forte is an excellent receiver, the Bucs may be able to open up their offense even more than they did with the unsteady hands of Doug Martin. Another legit factor with Forte is that he could be a short term fix to get the Bucs to next year's draft, when they could target LSU's Leonard Fournette or Winston's former FSU teammate Dalvin Cook.
Chris Ivory | New York Jets
Ivory is close to a mirror image of Doug Martin. Ivory, like Martin, is 27 years old, powerful runner, poor receiver, and questionable durability. Ivory would likely not cost very much in terms of salary, length of contract, or guaranteed money.