ALAMEDA – Doug Martin was among the first free agents Raiders coach Jon Gruden went after. He was on the street already, without NFL tampering rules preventing the veteran running back and the new/old Raiders head coach from meeting at a golf course in the Tampa area.
And, sure enough, Martin signed up with the Raiders shortly after free agency began.
Martin returned to his native Oakland as a backup behind Marshawn Lynch, but assumed a central role after Beast Mode was placed on injured reserve following a Week 6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Martin ran strong ever since, with 285 yards on 62 carries. That’s a 4.6 yards per carry average since taking over as the featured back.
He had another strong effort in Sunday’s 34-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Martin rushed for 51 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and another added another 21 yards as a receiver.
“He’s a good back. I think I’ll say it again and again, he’s a very good player,” Gruden said. “He’s been a great player in this league. He’s running it. He’s catching it. He picked up some blitz that were flushed. We did a lot of good things on the film that I look at. We’re proud of what we did against a very good defense. We thought Doug Martin played extremely well."
Gruden has lauded Martin’s ability since the spring, and the 29-year old is proving his coach right. The two-time Pro Bowler has something left in the tank.
Maybe, Gruden hopes, for the 2019 season as well.
“Hopefully we can keep him around here,” Gruden said. “He’s a heck of a football player.”
Martin signed a one-year deal worth up to $1.475 million in March and would be set to hit the open market again this spring. It remains uncertain whether Lynch, also an upcoming free agent, will return to the squad.
Jalen Richard is a restricted free agent next year, though the Raiders speak so highly of the third-down back he would clearly be welcomed back.
The Raiders have plenty of draft picks available for a running back, but having Martin back could provide some stability to the position. Gruden historically likes to feature several backs in his offense, though either Lynch or Martin have been the alpha in each game this season.