The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made an early splash in free agency. It just happened to be in their own pool.
General Manager Jason Licht may want to expand his post-victory pool-leaping tradition to matters of the roster after Wednesday's terrific news: The Buccaneers and running back Doug Martin have agreed to a new 5-year contract. Martin had been due to become an unrestricted free agent at 4:00 p.m. ET.
After running for 1,402 yards in 2015, Martin now owns two of the top three single-season rushing totals in the Buccaneers' 40-year history. With his new deal in place he now has an excellent chance to catch the man with the top mark on that list, James Wilder, as the all-time leading rusher in franchise annals. Martin has already run for 3,806 yards in his four NFL seasons to move up to fourth on the Bucs' career rushing chart; Wilder tops it with 5,957 yards, a record that has stood for more than 25 years.
Martin's return also keeps the Buccaneers' excellent one-two punch in the backfield intact. Last year, Martin and running mate Charles Sims were the most prolific running back tandem in the NFL, combining for 2,763 yards from scrimmage, including 1,673 for Martin and 1,090 for Sims. Both backs also averaged an excellent 4.9 yards per carry, each ranking in the top seven in that category among all qualifying players. Martin had the NFL's best per-carry average among all players with at least 150 totes.
Martin's 2015 season might have been even more impressive. Even though it was highlighted by an incredible 235-yard outburst in a Week 11 win at Philadelphia – the top single-game rushing total by any NFL player last year – it was also marked by great consistency. He ran for at least 50 yards in 12 of his 16 outings and at least 70 yards in 10 of those games. Martin also consistently produced big plays, with 38 runs of 10 or more yards and a league-leading 14 carries that went for 20 or more yards.
Tampa Bay has now re-signed two of the 10 players from their 2015 roster who were set to become unrestricted free agents. The team also struck a new deal with fifth-year safety Keith Tandy on Tuesday. In addition, tender offers were extended to restricted free agents safety Bradley McDougald and wide receiver Russell Shepard and to exclusive rights free agents long-snapper Andrew DePaola, linebacker Jeremiah George and defensive end Jacquies Smith.