Among the some 17 new free agents in the building in Oakland, they added two running backs. One a scat back to compete for the change-of-pace back behind Marshawn Lynch, the other to pave the way for Lynch as well as perhaps Martin on the block.
The scat back is Doug Martin, who three seasons ago was an All Pro, but who has averaged just 2.9 yards per carry the past two seasons in Tampa.
For a back who is supposed to still be in his prime to go from such a high to such a low is strange to say the least. I asked Gil Arcia of Buccaneers blog, Bucs Nation if he could shed some light on Martin.
Martin had lots of ups and downs. He burst on the scene during his rookie season, but he had four of six seasons with poor performance. There were indeed injuries in between. There were also other backs that ran behind the same offensive line that performed better, like Peyton Barber this past season.
He looked like he just lost patience with running the ball. Take his rookie season. He hit the holes even when they looked like there was no running lane there. He danced behind the line and never cut back to open lanes.
Entering 2016, there was some hesitation to bringing him back. Personally, I was against the team signing him to a new deal. But they signed him anyway.
Martin is also an Oakland/Stockton native. Jon Gruden made it clear the primary reasons for bringing him in were his low price tag and his Oakland roots. Low risk, high reward to see if playing at home can revive his career at the age of 29.
That blocking fullback is Keith Smith. He comes over from Dallas, who then traded to acquire Jamize Olawale from the Raiders. So, Jon Gruden got the fullback he wanted and got a little draft maneuvering in exchange for the player he didn’t want. Not a bad deal.
Who is Keith Smith? And what kind of player is he? Well, he is not looking for a comeback like Martin. He’s on the upswing having been the Cowboys starting fullback the past two seasons.
I asked David Halprin of SB Nation’s Blogging the Boys to give us some tasty morsels. He obliged.
Keith Smith was a former linebacker who converted to fullback. In the Cowboys system, which is very much a run-oriented offense, he was asked to basically be the lead blocker. That’s a job he does well, he’s a physical guy and he does a good job of seeing the unblocked defender or hitting the hole and creating space. In preseason games he showed he can catch the ball, but the Cowboys hardly ever used him in that way during regular season games. He’s also a very useful guy on special teams, and he’s familiar with Rich Bisaccia so I imagine he’ll get lots of time on those units. The Cowboys wanted him back, but they weren’t willing to go as high as Oakland did for his services.
Smith is also the youngest of all the players the Raiders signed this offseason. He’s just 26 because he was a restricted free agent who the team opted not to tender, so he signed with the Raiders on a 2-year deal instead.