One of Buccaneers GM Jason Licht's top priorities this offseason was signing running back Doug Martin to a long-term deal. After putting forth a resurgent 2015 campaign in which he scampered for 1,402 yards and 6 touchdowns on 288 carries, it was clear that Martin had returned to the rookie season form that he initially found success with.
Martin was an integral reason that the Bucs finished 2015 with a top-5 offense that averaged nearly 376 years of total offense per game. Now, he can take his game one step higher in 2016, especially if the offensive line continues to get better after being bolstered with the additions of J.R. Sweezy and Caleb Benenoch.
Linemen Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith have also just come off rookie campaigns chock full of valuable experience, which may lead to better hole-finding opportunities for Martin in 2016, if he manages to stay healthy. Offensive lines are crucial to a running back's success (see: DeMarco Murray's 2014 season with the Cowboys), and if Marpet, Smith and the rest of the line can remain a constantly-improving cohesive unit, there's no reason to believe Martin won't have another fantastic season for the Bucs this upcoming year.
In today's NFL, running backs tend to have the briefest careers, as running the football tends to be one of the most physically-strenuous roles on the field. According to SportsGrid.com, the average running back career length is about 3.11 years, but some backs such as Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings obviously can outlast this. Like Peterson, Martin has already done so, as he approaches his fifth season in the NFL. With Licht having signed Dougernaut to an additional five years, only time will tell how long he is able to produce at a high level for the team's offense.
Consistency of play is a key factor for GMs when negotiating contract extensions with players, and after producing two 1400-yard seasons of field-shredding in his NFL career, Doug Martin has proved to Tampa executives, as well as the rest of the league that he is a force to be reckoned with. I think he's worth every penny, despite already outlasting the average career length, and every move this offseason leads me to believe that he'll have repeated success in 2016. Just don't call him the Muscle Hamster anymore.
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