Bucs wisely recognize re-signing Doug Martin was best option

Martin being back with Bucs makes sense (1:30)

Mark Dominik explains what he saw in RB Doug Martin when he initially drafted him as GM of the Buccaneers, as well as how important it is for teams to re-sign their own players. (1:30)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did the right thing by re-signing Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin.

In a way, they almost had no choice.

The list of free-agent running backs wasn't impressive to begin with, and it got even less so when the Jacksonville Jaguars agreed to a deal with Chris Ivory on Tuesday night.

Matt Forte was available, but he's 30 years old and has averaged 315 touches per season in his eight-year career. Arian Foster was an option, too, and is a year younger than Forte, but he hasn't played a full season since 2012 and has missed 23 games over the past three seasons because of various injuries.

So the Bucs could have pursued Joique Bell, Reggie Bush, Bilal Powell, Lamar Miller or Alfred Morris, but none is -- at this point, anyway -- in Martin's class. They also could have decided to go with Charles Sims as their top back -- he rushed for 529 yards in 2015 -- and add another in the middle rounds of the draft.

None of those options is as good as retaining Martin, who finished second in the NFL in rushing (1,402 yards) last season. Negotiations came perilously close to the 4 p.m. ET deadline, at which point Martin would have become a free agent, but they eventually worked out an agreement after 2 p.m. ET.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Martin agreed to a five-year, $35 million contract. The Bucs could have saved some money if they had exercised the fifth-year option in his rookie contract before the 2015 season, which would have given him a $5.6 million salary in 2016. However, Martin was coming off consecutive injury-plagued seasons in which he rushed for less than 500 yards, and picking up the option at that point didn't make sense.

The Bucs drafted Martin with the 31st pick in 2012, and he finished his rookie season with 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing and caught 49 passes for 472 yards and one touchdown. Martin was a finalist for rookie of the year and earned a Pro Bowl berth as a first alternate.

He missed a combined 15 games in 2013-14 because of a torn labrum in his left shoulder and ankle and knee injuries. He ran for 950 yards and three touchdowns combined in those two seasons.

Martin played in every game last season and averaged a career-best 4.9 yards per carry. He was a big reason the Bucs finished fifth in the NFL in total offense despite starting a rookie quarterback.

The Bucs smartly kept Martin around, and now the team's young trio of Martin, quarterback Jameis Winston and receiver Mike Evans remains as the offense's core for at least the next few seasons.