TAMPA -- Doug Martin never wanted to leave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But getting paid what he considered fair market value was paramount.
Bucs officials said they never wanted him to go, but indicated they were not going to break the bank to keep him.
The running back and the Bucs reached a mutual destiny on the first day of free agency Wednesday when Martin signed a reported deal for five years and $35.7 million that includes $15 million guaranteed.
The 27-year-old Martin reiterated that he never wanted to leave, but owed it to himself to test the waters in what will likely be the best contract of his career.
"The negotiations are a process. It takes time. I always wanted to remain a Buc. I always wanted to come back and be successful being a Buccaneer," Martin said. "It takes time -- the negotiation -- it's a lot of pull and push and all that. At the end of the day, we knew what was going to happen."
The California native thanked the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht, who has always maintained that signing Martin was essential.
The happiest guy had to be quarterback Jameis Winston, who had a successful rookie season thanks in large part to Martin taking the pressure off him.
"I love Dirk Koetter's offense. I thought we had a bunch of young guys, a bunch of rookies that really came in and played very well," Martin said. "Jameis is going to be a great quarterback for us, and I can't wait to come back and play for the team. We are going to do great things, so the sky is the limit for us."
Martin rushed for 1,402 yards and six touchdowns to earn first team All-Pro honors last season, his fourth in the league. He was successful his first and fourth years in the NFL and
struggled in the middle two years while plagued with injuries and was operating behind a suspect offensive line with not much help from the quarterback.
"It's definitely been a journey, having a great season in 2012 and getting injured and being out for the season, and having injuries here and there in the third season," Martin said. "But to come back from that adversity and coming back last year as strong as I did, it definitely makes me proud and I'm glad that it happened that way."
Martin said he sees a bright future with the Bucs offense that returns Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson at receiver, some experience on the offensive line and Charles Sims, who will back him up at running back for the second straight season.
"Everyone says the reason I did good this past season is because I was playing for my contract, but if you look to the previous year, I was hurt, we didn't really have an offensive coordinator, we weren't really as potent on offense," Martin said. "This upcoming year, we have something to build on and not much is going to change. If anything we are going to get better."
Martin led the league with 906 yards after contact. He ranked first in missed tackles forced (57), fourth in elusive rating (65.7) and second in breakaway percentage (42.1) according to Pro Football Focus.
Licht knew how much Martin means to Winston and the importance of his familiarity Koetter's offense could not be overstated.
"Many of our offensive accomplishments last season can be attributed to the success of our running game with Doug in the backfield and we believe he is the perfect fit for our offensive system," Licht said. "It is always satisfying when you get the opportunity to reward one of your own players and Doug certainly has earned his place as one of our young foundational players."
The Bucs also signed J.R. Sweezy, a three-year starter at guard for Seattle, who is expected to battle with incumbent Kevin Pamphile for the guard spot that opened with Logan Mankins' retirement. Ali Marpet, who just finished his rookie year, will man the other guard spot.
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Sweezy, is a seventh-round pick in 2012.
Alan Dell, Herald sports columnist/writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports