Doug Martin

NFL coaches live the life of praise players in public, purge in private

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USATSI

NFL coaches live the life of praise players in public, purge in private

Jon Gruden’s arrival made Marshawn Lynch expendable.
 
Oh, sure this will be listed on Doug Martin’s legacy, as his new deal with the Oakland Raiders makes Lynch a likely early casualty in the Gruden Part Deux Era, but just as Jack Del Rio was hired by Mark Davis as a sop to the fan base he was planning to abandon, so too was Lynch, and finally Gruden.
 
And this just unchecks a thrice-checked box. Lynch as a face of the franchise was Mark Davis’ idea, he was one of the faces of a 6-10 team, and Gruden as the new face of the franchise has other ideas about whose face has the force of law.
 
At least that’s one superficial and probably misleading read from Martin’s signing, as the now-former Tampa Bay running back basically takes Lynch’s spot on Gruden’s first roster. It is a football decision (Martin may still have more tread), it is a cultural decision (Gruden isn’t all that warm or fuzzy with the employees) and it’s a new boss decision (Gruden wants his guys, not someone else’s).
 
But it also reminds us that coaches are liars unless forced into the truth, and when Gruden lauded Lynch a month ago, veteran observers could hear his fingers crossing themselves. After all, the rule of thumb for any public figure who isn’t either crazy or narcisstic is always “praise in public, purge in private,” and people who know Gruden well couldn’t see him nuzzling up to Lynch only to discipline him later for all the things he was allowed to do under Del Rio.
 
The same logic is being applied to the attraction for Jordy Nelson as a replacement for Michael Crabtree – well, except the mileage part. Gruden is recreating the Raiders in his image, which not only puts an interesting ellipsis on his own resume but puts all but a few players from the old regime (or regimes) in danger of being relocated.
 
And while we’re at it, the same is true for Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco, who watched center Daniel Kilgore get a new deal last month and traded to Miami this month – giving a fresh interpretation to the notion of being day-to-day. In the NFL, everyone is, right up to the door of the owner’s suite.
 
Whether the Martin signing is a good idea or not remains to be determined, of course, because the future has an odd way of not obeying the needs of the present, and March’s good idea can become October’s mistake. But Gruden reminded us yet again that coaches aren’t to be taken seriously when they say something in public because they don’t regard anything they say as binding. Every answer is simply a placeholder until it has to be changed, and that’s a valuable lesson for us to remember the next time we think a coach is leveling with us on anything. They live in an autocorrect world, and when it comes to taking them at their word, we should remember that.

Raiders agree to deal with former first-round running back

Raiders agree to deal with former first-round running back

Update (3:09 p.m.): The Raiders have officially signed running back Doug Martin to a one-year contract.

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The Raiders entered this offseason with five running backs under contract.

Now they have seven. For the time being, anyway.

Former Tampa Bay rusher Doug Martin agreed on terms of a one-year contract with the Silver and Black, NFL Network reported on Thursday. The Raiders also added fullback Keith Smith on a two-year deal. The Martin contract, however, should spark some upheaval on the depth chart. 

Team and player have been working towards a deal for weeks, after Martin and head coach Jon Gruden met in person. Gruden came away with a positive impression, and believes Martin’s ready to rebound after consecutive disappointing seasons.

Martin, 29, has averaged 2.9 yards per carry over the past two seasons, after being suspended for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy.

The Oakland native, who grew up in Stockton, has exceeded 1,400 yards twice in six professional seasons. He had 1,402 yards (4.9 ypc) in 2015, his last season as a dominant rusher.

Martin’s addition should push someone off the depth chart. Many will assume that’s feature back Marshawn Lynch. Don't go there. Lynch was productive in the season’s second half especially, and still has it a roughly a month from his 32nd birthday. Raiders coaches want him on the team, as their feature back.

Lynch’s future could find clarity on Sunday, when he’s owed a $1 million roster bonus. Raider coaches hope Lynch is their feature back next season. 

Martin could provide depth behind him, or another feature back. 

DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have similar rushing styles, and Martin could be a secondary option over one of those guys if Lynch is retained.

The Raiders also employ fullback Jamize Olawale and first-year player Elijah Hood.

Another running back could still be added in the draft, as the Raiders look for long-term solutions at this pivotal spot.

Smith should aid the Raiders' special teams effort at the least. 

Raiders keeping an eye on running backs market, deep draft class

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Raiders keeping an eye on running backs market, deep draft class

Every incumbent Raiders running back remains under contract. That includes Marshawn Lynch, who is due roughly $6 million in salary and bonuses if he plays all year.

Head coach Jon Gruden said last week he’s counting on Lynch to contribute in 2018. Notice the wiggle room in there. There’s no firm commitment of a return despite the fact Gruden’s kind words last week (which you can read here).

Offensive line coach Tom Cable, especially, wants Lynch playing in silver and black next season.

Lynch is enigmatic, so uncertainty remains without a proclamation from team or player of a return. Some clarity could come soon. Lynch is due a $1 million roster bonus on March 18.

In addition to Lynch, The Raiders also have fullback Jamize Olawale in the mix. Young rushers DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are coming off down years.

Gruden could certainly look for upgrades at the top or bottom of the depth chart. That’s why the Raiders will monitor the running back market in free agency and a deep draft class.

That’s why, according to NFL Network, Gruden met with former Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin. As a note, teams can meet and negotiate with players that get cut.

Teams can negotiate with pending free agents on Monday. Free agency formally opens Wednesday afternoon.

It’s uncertain whether Martin, who averaged 2.9 yards per carry the last two seasons, is a priority or a backup plan. Meeting with Martin and being associated with others could double as due diligence and leverage in a possible request to restructure Lynch’s contract. There are layers to all these associations. Some are real. Others are taken from the smallest scrap of information, used by agents to create a competitive market for their client. 

The Raiders are primarily focused on defense in free agency, but will explore upgrades at offensive skill positions. That includes running back, receiver and tight ends of various skill sets.

Wilkerson remains on McKenzie’s radar

General manager Reggie McKenzie has long been intrigued by defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. Immense talent kept the New York Jets interested and the Temple grad handsomely paid over the years, but that time has passed. Wilkerson was released this week, and has started his free agent tour.

He has reportedly visited the Packers, Saints and Chiefs. ESPN reports the Raiders have interest, and could meet with Oakland in time. CBS Sports reports that Washington is next on his free-agent tour.

Wilkerson has had some dominant years, but his production has waned in recent seasons. He would be the three-down inside presence the Raiders need if he can find old form.

Raiders have “preliminary interest” in Sherman

The 49ers are putting effort into acquiring Richard Sherman, who was released Friday by Seattle. The Stanford product dined with Kyle Shanahan Friday night, the 49ers head coach told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco, and he’ll reportedly visit the team’s Santa Clara complex on Saturday. If he leaves without a deal – it sure seems like the 49ers are pushing hard to land Sherman -- the Raiders could be a next stop.

Sherman, who represents himself, told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that he received preliminary interest from the 49ers, Raiders, Titans, Lions, Texans, Buccaneers and Packers. NFL Network reported Saturday afternoon that he'll visit the Lions next week if, of course, he leaves Santa Clara without a contract. 

Contract value (and health) could be an issue here. The Raiders don’t currently have tons of cap space, though it could be easily created with veteran cuts.

The Raiders are expected to address the cornerback position in free agency, either in the first or, more likely, second tier of the market.