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Lovie: Re-signing Doug Martin is a priority

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 22: Doug Martin #22 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates his first down in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 22, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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When faced with a decision about picking up the $5.6 million fifth-year option on running back Doug Martin’s contract, the Buccaneers opted not to pull the trigger.

Two years of injuries and middling production influenced that decision, but Martin has turned things around this year. He’s been in the lineup for all 10 games and ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards after going off for 235 yards in last Sunday’s rout of the Eagles.

On Monday, coach Lovie Smith addressed Martin’s possible free agency and said that the Bucs will make holding onto their 2012 first-round pick a priority.

“Is Doug Martin a priority? I can say that, yeah, he definitely is,’’ Smith said, via the Tampa Tribune. “I don’t think Doug came into the season thinking he wasn’t wanted around here. It’s the complete opposite of that. And we have put him in a position to have the type of year he’s having right now. So, I think it’s all good. If I’m Doug Martin, I’m pretty happy I didn’t sign a contract before and I like the position I’m in right now.”

It’s hard to argue with Smith’s take on Martin’s position. Players don’t tend to like the franchise tag, but getting it would guarantee him more money in 2016 than he would have made with the option and it sets a higher floor to use in discussions of a long-term deal with the Buccaneers as well. He’d also be part of a team that is using him well this season and taking strides offensively offensively overall with the arrival of Jameis Winston, both of which might be more appealing than starting over somewhere else.