The sixth-year former All-Pro struggled to stay on the field last season, picking up 421 yards and three scores on 144 carries through eight games. He had 1,402 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 16 games in 2015. Martin, 28, has never truly been able to return to his rookie form. In 2012, the No. 31 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft had 1,926 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns.
But he'll be benched for the first three games of the 2017 season after violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. Martin sat out the Buccaneers' final contest in 2016 to begin the suspension.
With that history, many fans through that the Buccaneers might take a stab at a running back prospect in the first round of Thursday's 2017 NFL Draft. But the Buccaneers opted for Alabama tight end O.J. Howard with pick No. 19 overall.
Sources told NFL Network that the decision was made in part due to Martin's efforts in offseason training. According to the source, Martin has been the team's "most impressive player" so far in the workouts.
Earlier this month, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston also praised Martin.
"One name that's gonna shock...Doug Martin. He, he looks incredible. He looks incredible," Winston told 620 WDAE on the Ronnie and TKras show. "The way that he's bursting, putting his foot in the ground and just being so explosive. I wasn't really surprised because he is so, he's a very hard worker. But to see the energy he has been bringing out there to work out day to day has been amazing. It really shows his resilience and how well he has prepared this off-season."
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht also said Martin was in impressive shape at the workouts.
"He looks great right now; he looks as good as I've seen him since I've been here, from a physical standpoint," Licht told ESPN. "He was in very good spirits. We're excited to have him, excited to see how he does out here in OTAs."
Florida State's all-time leading rusher Dalvin Cook was one of the options that the Buccaneers had a chance at getting. He remains on the board, despite many believing he is the most dynamic running back available. Cook has drawn comparisons to Marshall Faulk, Le'Veon Bell, Edgerrin James and Chris Johnson. LSU's Leonard Fournette was the No. 4 overall pick Thursday while Stanford's Christian McCaffrey went with pick No. 8.
A recent second-round mock draft by NFL.com has the New York Jets snagging Cook at pick No. 39 and the Cincinnati Bengals grabbing Oklahoma's Joe Mixon at No. 41. The mock draft has the Buccaneers sleeking Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu at No. 50.
Martin reported to the Buccaneers' facility for the first day of the team's offseason program.