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Licht doesn’t regret passing on Martin’s fifth-year option

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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The Buccaneers retained running back Doug Martin, but in an expensive manner. The team declined last May to exercise the fifth-year option on Martin’s rookie contract, which would have kept him under contract for 2016 at $5.6 million.

Martin ended up signing a five-year contract worth a reported $35 million just before the start of free agency, but Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht told PFT’s Mike Florio at the league meetings Tuesday that he looks at that as a good thing for Martin and the team, not as a loss.

“We put a carrot in front of him and he had a great year,” Licht said. “He doesn’t need a carrot now. He wants to prove he’s one of the best and can continue to be the best. In hindsight, I think we would have done that again.”

The full Licht interview airs Wednesday on PFT Live.

Martin ran for 1,402 yards and six touchdowns last season, surpassing the numbers in both categories that he’d posted in the previous two seasons combined. Licht said the Bucs see Martin as a key piece of an offense they believe will only continue to improve.

“We have a great young quarterback in Jameis Winston but it helps even further when you have a runner like Doug,” Licht said. “He runs angry. He runs tough. Getting him back was of the utmost importance. Jameis was texting me all the time asking, ‘is this done? Is this done?’

“He was usuing emojis, [praying] hands, the whole thing.”

Martin, who just turned 27, was able to explore outside interest during the NFL’s legal tampering period before signing his new deal with the Bucs.

“I think that was great for both sides,” Licht said. “He was able to get some love but he also saw we were serious about keeping him and how much we were committed to keeping him.”