Isaiah Crowell

Doug Martin ready, willing to mentor Raiders first-round pick Josh Jacobs

Doug Martin ready, willing to mentor Raiders first-round pick Josh Jacobs

Doug Martin has spent most of his career as a feature running back, with some standout seasons to show for it. His career entered another phase last season, when he joined the Raiders knowing full well he’d be a backup.

Marshawn Lynch was the primary option when he signed up, and steady carries proved hard to come by as an understudy even with head coach/offensive play caller Jon Gruden’s propensity for using multiple backs. Lynch deserved the workload he got, and Jalen Richard was a change-of-pace back off the bench.

Martin went full-time after Lynch’s season-ending groin injury, and churned out a respectable 4.2 yards per carry. He wasn’t able to find another solid opportunity in free agency, and was unemployed when the Raiders drafted Josh Jacobs and signed Isaiah Crowell.

Crowell’s torn Achilles’ tendon brought Martin back to the Silver and Black, a second time with zero allusions of being the feature back. He came here to counsel Jacobs, and take over in an unexpected pinch.

He was frank about that fact after Tuesday’s OTA session.

“Josh Jacobs, he’s a good kid with good character,” Martin said. “You all heard his story, I read up on it myself. I commend him for being as strong as he is, and that being said I came here to mentor, push him, show him that I’ve been in the league eight years, so I am a vet now. I can’t believe it, but that’s the case and so I’m here to just be that role model for him.

"If he has any questions, I’m here for him to ask them. Like I said, he has good character, but at the same time he looks like he can just run you over, so he’s going to be great for the team.”

Martin definitely wanted a shot at steady carries, especially after leading the team with 723 rushing yards and four touchdowns primarily as a first-and-second-down back.

A Raiders reunion seemed likely at first, though the sides couldn’t agree on terms and Martin remained a free agent deep into the offseason. That was worrisome, but Martin insists it didn’t cause great consternation.

“If something doesn’t go your way, you just have to stay optimistic, and I was being optimistic with the situation,” Martin said. “I knew I was going to be somewhere and do good things, but it’s just crazy how things folded out. I wish happy healing to Isaiah Crowell for his Achilles' (tendon injury), but, when there is chaos you just make a positive out of negative and you just got to stay optimistic about it.”

Martin's back with the Raiders, understanding his role as mentor and backup capable of playing well on early downs.

This mentor/protégé partnership could work, considering how much Jacobs and Martin have in common. Both guys were first-round picks, with the Raiders adding Jacobs at No. 24 this year, and Tampa Bay taking Martin at No. 31 in 2012.

They also have similar builds, with Jacobs standing 5-foot-10, 220 pounds and Martin at 5-9, 223. Both guys can slash through the interior, with enough speed to pop good runs outside.

Martin had nearly 2,000 yards of total offense (on 368 touches!!) as a rookie, a sum the Raiders would gladly take from Jacobs early on.

Nearly a decade separates them and the Raiders are looking to get younger across the board, making this Jacobs’ time to shine.

[RELATED: Jacobs is Raiders rookie in best position to succeed]

This will be the first time Martin has assumed a mentorship role, but he’s ready for it.

“It’s not something I’m used to but it’s something that I want to do,” Martin said. “I’ve been in the league eight years. I’ve been through the whole spectrum of good to bad in this league and, if I can teach somebody, if I can teach Josh on what to do, what not to do, how to stay in on the narrow path and just keep his eye on the goal, then I’m here for that.

"And, yeah, I’m grateful.”

Raiders sign Doug Martin to contract shortly after losing Isaiah Crowell

Raiders sign Doug Martin to contract shortly after losing Isaiah Crowell

The Raiders were impressed by Doug Martin’s play last year. The Oakland native averaged 4.2 yards per carry when called upon, which was infrequent early and regular after Marshawn Lynch was lost for the season in Week 6.

He found a solid rhythm and was productive enough that a return engagement in 2019 seemed like a safe bet. Player and team couldn’t agree on a pact, leaving the front office to look elsewhere for help. Isaiah Crowell was the new guy, signed as a primary back but became a reserve option after Alabama’s Josh Jacobs was taken No. 24 overall in last week’s NFL draft.

He wasn’t available long. The versatile veteran back suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon during a Monday offseason program workout, ESPN reported, and lost for the season.

That re-opened the door for Martin, who agreed on terms of a new contract Wednesday afternoon. NFL Network first reported the news.

The Raiders confirmed the signing Thursday afternoon.

Martin should be the No. 2 behind Jacobs, though Jalen Richard will play a significant role on offense. Chris Warren III will challenge for carries this spring and summer, possibly fighting Martin for a roster spot. DeAndre Washington is also in the mix here, with a tough cut upcoming this fall for the position group.

[RELATED: Examining Raiders' roster after free agency, NFL draft]

Martin had 723 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 172 carries, but also had three fumbles during his first year in Oakland. The two-time Pro Bowler averaged 4.1 yards per carry over six uneven seasons with Tampa Bay.

Raiders' options with running back Isaiah Crowell reportedly out for 2019

Raiders' options with running back Isaiah Crowell reportedly out for 2019

Josh Jacobs was part of a rushing tandem at Alabama, but the Raiders fully expect the No. 24 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft to be more of a three-down presence wearing Silver and Black.

Head coach Jon Gruden said so after adding him to the mix in Thursday’s first round, and Jacobs said Friday he was ready for a big rookie role.

“Definitely eager to prove, not only to myself, but to everybody that I can be a three-down back,” Jacobs said. “Yeah, I think it was a blessing how it played out. I feel everything plays out how it’s supposed to. With me not having so much tread on the tires or whatever, being so fresh, I think it’s going to be huge, especially for my position. It’s going to be interesting.”

While Jacobs is ready for significant carries in 2019, Isaiah Crowell was his safety net. The versatile veteran was signed as a primary option hoping to invigorate his career following a down year with the New York Jets, and became an alternate with Jacobs aboard.

Crowell’s no longer an option. He suffered a season-ending Achilles’ tendon tear during a Monday offseason program workout, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported, and will miss the 2019 season.

The Raiders could move forward with in-house options behind Jacobs, focusing on a group that includes Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington and Chris Warren III. Richard was a roster lock before the Crowell injury. Washington seemed to face an uphill climb and Warren has to prove himself after a solid preseason and a 2018 season spent on injured reserve.

The Raiders could add an undrafted runner and have faith proper depth will form with the group already in place. That’s a possibility, considering Richard’s reliability, Washington’s experience as a No. 3, and Warren’s potential.

Or the Silver and Black could go back to free agency for more established depth. Here are a few options out there, including one (or two) we know well that simply can’t be eliminated:

Jay Ajayi

There’s no doubting Ajayi’s ability to produce or be a dynamic ball carrier, but he’s returning from an ACL tear. That could scare teams off depending on his medical evaluations, though he’s reportedly due to return by the start of the season.

There’s no doubt the soon-to-be 26-year-old is the best rusher available if he finds pre-injury form.

Doug Martin

Head coach Jon Gruden likes Doug Martin and how he ran as the Raiders’ primary back last year after Marshawn Lynch ended up on injured reserve, when he averaged 4.1 yards per carry. The Oakland native couldn’t find an accord on a second season with the Raiders and remains on the open market.

Martin knows the system, so his return would be easy if the sides can strike a deal. At this stage, that's a big if.

Marshawn Lynch

This is the option fans have been discussing since Crowell’s injury news broke Wednesday morning. ESPN reported last week that Lynch planned to retire, but the mysterious runner hasn’t made a formal announcement. He rarely speaks in public, but no one in his camp has confirmed retirement news.

Oakland might be the only place Lynch would play in 2019, but that doesn't mean he's set for a return. 

Owner Mark Davis loves Lynch and Gruden has great respect for a player who was the team’s best skill player before suffering a torn groin that ended his 2018 season in Week 6. Despite those facts, it seems like the Raiders have moved on. 

The Raiders said they would consider a Lynch return after the draft, but that was before the 33-year-old’s retirement report came out just before a draft where Jacobs was taken as the future of the position. Would he return to support a young back who looks up to him? Would he welcome 10-15 touches per game? None of those questions can be answered for certain because Lynch is an enigma. That’s just the way he likes it.

[RELATED: Marshawn Lynch to the Hall of Fame?]

We can say that Lynch is healthy again after groin surgery and certainly capable of efficient production. Whether the Raiders go back down this road, or if Lynch is even interested at this point, remains a mystery.

Bilal Powell

Powell has been an efficient runner during a long tenure with the New York Jets, but ended up on IR last year with a neck injury. He could be a solid backup if he’s healthy and ready to return. Reports initially said his injury was career threatening, but then Jets coach Todd Bowles said he would make a full recovery.

Charcandrick West

The former Kansas City back reportedly worked out for the Raiders in early April but didn’t sign with the team. He could come back at this stage, with an opportunity to compete for a more significant role. He has had mixed results in his NFL career, filling in at times for an injured starter with the Chiefs.