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Free agent profile: Punter Sam Martin

Does it make sense for the Denver Broncos to chase a free agent punter?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Coldy Wadman was not very good in 2019. He was only slightly better in 2018. Sam Martin was significantly better over the past two seasons than Bronco punters. In fact, Martin, who has been the punter for the Lions since 2013, has been better than the Bronco punter in every season he has been in the league with the exception of 2017 when he was injured.

In addition to the punting duties, Sam Martin also handled kickoffs for the Lions. Here are his ranks from a net punt average by year and the rank of the Bronco punter.

Year Martin Bronco P
2013 10th 25th
2014 9th 29th
2015 5th 20th
2016 2nd 9th
2017 33rd 24th
2018 21st 28th
2019 11th 26th

If you want to look at how Martin has fared in my in-depth punting analysis, the links are in the comments section from the 2019 season review. I have done that analysis all the way back to the 2015 season. Martin has been better than Bronco punter in those metrics as well.

Why the Broncos should not sign Martin.

My reading of the tea leaves says that our current special teams coach is asking our punters to do things differently than they normally would. This has had the unintended result of making them worse punters. Wadman was better in 2018 than he was in 2019. Marquette King was better in Oakland than he was in Denver. Tom McMahon has done our poor job getting results from our punters during his two seasons as our special teams coordinator. I am not confident that he would not screw up Sam Martin were we to sign him.

McMahon has been a special teams coordinator in the NFL for eleven seasons now and until he got to Denver, his punters have been having great success for most of his career. Look at the average net punt ranking for his teams before he took over the STC job for the Broncos and then with the Broncos.

Year Team Net Punting Rank
2009 Rams 2nd
2010 Rams 3rd
2011 Rams 26th
2012 Chiefs 6th
2013 Colts 24th
2014 Colts 3rd
2015 Colts 5th
2016 Colts 3rd
2017 Colts 4th
2018 Broncos 28th
2019 Broncos 26th

I don’t think that McMahon suddenly forgot how to coach punters, but he went from having one of the top punting units in the league almost every year before he got here to having one of the worst in the league during his two year stint in Denver. I can’t explain that other to try and read the tea leaves from some of Marquette King’s tweets.

There is not guarantee that Martin would not get messed up working with McMahon, but there is also no guarantee that he would.

Why the Broncos should sign Sam Martin.

It’s possible that McMahon has gotten terrible results from his/our punters over the past two season because the punters have not been very good. After all, the coach is not the one punting the ball. You could argue that when McMahon has had good/great punters to work with he has gotten good/great results. Donnie Jones, Dustin Colquitt and Pat McAfee all had good years with McMahon as their STC.

Martin might have good results like that in Denver. So it might come down to how much the Broncos want to spend to improve the performance of our punt unit. Sam Martin will be expensive. The highest paid punter in the league last season, Thomas Morstead of the Saints, makes $3.9MM/yr. Martin would be at least three million per which is what the top eight punter in the league averaged. Currently the Broncos have one of the cheaper Punters in the league with Wadman having a cap hit of $570k in 2019. That will only go up to $660k in 2020. So the question that the front office will have to answer is whether they think that potentially improving the punt unit by bringing in Sam Martin is worth an extra 2.5 million or so of cap space?


Do you want the Broncos to chase Sam Martin as a free agent punter?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Yes - you have to pay for performance
    (128 votes)
  • 21%
    Yes - but only if he signs a team-friendly deal
    (151 votes)
  • 3%
    No - Wadman will get better and he’s cheap
    (24 votes)
  • 57%
    No - Let Trevor Daniel beat out Wadman in camp. Spending heavily on a punter is stupid.
    (414 votes)
717 votes total Vote Now