Detroit Lions punter Sam Martin kicks off a game between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions on December 16, 2017.
One position where you don’t often anticipate any turnover, especially since the Lions drafted Sam Martin in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, is the punter position. There’s reason to believe that this season could be different though, because Sam Martin dealt with an injury last year and saw a significant drop in his production while he was on the field. If he’s still not 100%, that may open the door for a cheaper option like Ryan Santoso to snag that spot on the roster.
Here’s a look at Sam Martin’s Stats and Rankings among punters since he entered the league:
2013: 72 Punts, 3339 Net Yds, 47.2 Avg (6th)
2014: 68 Punts, 3138 Net Yds, 46.1 Avg (13th)
2015: 80 Punts, 3679 Net Yds, 46.0 Avg (13th)
2016: 62 Punts, 3010 Net Yds, 48.5 Avg (3th)
2017: 41 Punts, 1779 Net Yds, 43.4 Avg (28th)
Last season really sticks out as a poor year for Martin who has had a very good career up until then and has endeared himself to the Detroit Lions fanbase since he came to the city in 2013. The guy even has two career pass completions. Who doesn’t love a punter that can throw? Jokes aside, a lot of Sam’s future in Detroit is going to depend on whether or not the foot injury that he sustained last offseason is going to hinder him for the rest of his career and if the team is trying to free up some cap space for other potential moves.
If Sam Martin is unable to separate himself from the other legs in camp, he has a somewhat large price-tag for a punter hanging over his head and that may make him expendable in Bob Quinn‘s eyes. Back in 2016, Martin’s four year contract extension made him one of the higher paid punters in the league but he was given that when he was consistently playing like a proven high level punter. With the way that things went last season while he was dealing with a nagging foot injury, management may bring into question whether he’s still worth the cap hit.
The likely other two options at punter for the Lions are Ryan Santoso, a UDFA punter from the University of Minnesota, and Kasey Redfern who handled some of the punting duties last season while Martin was injured. Santoso averaged an even 43 net punt yard average as a senior at Minnesota which puts his 2017 on par with Sam Martin for that statistic. This is going to be a big factor in Bob Quinn’s decision at punter. If he feels that Sam Martin will never be the same as he was pre-2017, he may just elect to go with Santoso, who appears to have the ability to be at least a below average NFL punter.
There’s another factor to this as well. Regardless of whether Martin regains his form or not, Bob Quinn may decide that he prefers to have a below average punter with a minimal cap hit, instead of keeping on an above average punter who has almost a $3 million cap hit for the 2018 season. The Lions could save $1.4 million by cutting Martin this season and BQ has stressed how much he wants a solid cap buffer going into the season. If the Lions choose to sign another free agent, this may become a more likely possibility.
It will be interesting to see if anything happens at punter and Sam Martin is a fan favorite so I’m sure it would be disappointing to people if he were to go. Nobody really knows what Bob Quinn’s plans are for the punter position but regardless of what happens…
In Bob We Trust.