Sam Martin

Latest On Bills’ Special Teams

The Bills had to make a lot of tough decisions this offseason for the sake of the salary cap and their future. Buffalo has lost a number of big names like wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis, pass rusher Leonard Floyd, and center Mitch Morse, but it’s also parted ways with a number of under-the-radar contributors, particularly on special teams, per Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News.

Special teams coordinator Matthew Smiley is going to need to come up with some ideas for both returner jobs. The team let last year’s leading punt returner, Deonte Harty, depart for Baltimore in free agency, and while last season’s leading kick returners, Ty Johnson and Khalil Shakir, both return in 2024, Shakir may be needed more on offense with the departures of Diggs and Davis.

Shakir was a contributor on punt returns last year, as well. Now that he’s competing with rookie second-round pick Keon Coleman for the WR1 job, though, the Bills may want to do what they can to keep him fresh for the offense. One possible replacement is rookie sixth-round cornerback Daequan Hardy. The Penn State-product returned 17 punts for 248 yards and two touchdowns for the Nittany Lions last year. While moving from Harty to Hardy sounds easy enough, Hardy likely won’t make the roster for his return abilities alone. He’ll need to show that he can contribute on defense, as well to win the job.

Johnson should continue to work as the team’s main kickoff return man, but Smiley has iterated that both return jobs are wide open for competition. Smiley may also decide to continue utilizing Shakir if he’s truly the best option. The team also rosters veteran Andy Isabella. While Isabella has never caught on as an NFL receiver, he has experience returning kickoffs and punts from his time with the Cardinals.

The Bills also will need to replace the production of linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who remains a current free agent. In four years with the Bills, the veteran played almost exclusively as a special teamer, even earning a role as team captain for his special teams contributions in Buffalo. Similarly, former safety Siran Neal, now with the division-rival Dolphins, served as the team’s main gunner on punt coverage. Both players’ special teams efforts will need to be replaced.

Lastly, the team seems to be encouraging competition at the punter position, as well. Veteran Sam Martin has held the position for two seasons and is under contract for two more, but at one point this offseason, the Bills had three punters on the roster. Matt Haack was released before spring practices concluded, but undrafted free agent punter Jack Browning out of San Diego State is still on the roster and could push Martin through camp. It will take a lot for Browning to beat out Martin, though, as the veteran placed a career-best 47.1 percent of his punts inside the 20-yard line last year.

Smiley has a lot of decisions to make over the next two months, but he seems really excited to see the guys he has on the roster compete this summer.

Bills Re-Sign P Sam Martin

The Bills were left scrambling for a new punter last summer, and turned to veteran Sam Martin for the 2o22 season. His time in Buffalo will be continuing, as he and the team have agreed to terms on a three-year contract with a maximum value of $7.5MM, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (Twitter link). A team announcement has confirmed the move.

Garafolo adds that the deal includes $4.115MM in guaranteed money, a sign of his success in his debut campaign with the Bills. Buffalo seemed to have their punting situation secured for at least the next few years when they drafted Matt Araiza, his legal situation led to the team moving on from him in August.

That left the Bills short on options as they approached the start of the regular season, but the Broncos’ decision to release Martin for financial reasons gave the two parties a mutual need. Days after being let go by Denver, he inked a deal to join Buffalo, his third career team. The 33-year-old had previously played for the Lions before his two-year tenure in the Mile High City.

Martin set the second-highest mark of his career in punting average (47.7) this season, one in which he was needed much less often than in all but one of his prior campaigns. His success in giving the team consistency in the punting game has obviously sat well, and earned Martin the second most lucrative contract of his career.

The Bills also announced on Monday that they have re-signed linebacker Tyler Matakevich on a one-year deal. The 30-year-old has spent the past three seasons in Buffalo, playing a key role on special teams. He and Martin will be in line to continue their respective duties in 2023 as the Bills look to secure valued contributors from the past season ahead of this week’s opening of free agency.

AFC West Rumors: James, Waller, Hobbs, Waitman

Back in June of 2021, Ravens offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James filed a grievance against the Broncos seeking $15MM consisting of his 2021 and 2022 salaries of $10MM and $5MM, respectively. James has reportedly settled with his former team and will receive $1.09MM, according to Charean Williams of NBC Sports.

The grievance stems from a torn Achilles that James suffered while working out away from the Broncos’ facility during the 2021 offseason. He missed out on a $9.85MM guaranteed salary that Denver claimed was only guaranteed for injuries sustained at the team facility.

James has not played since the injury and is currently listed as the backup to Baltimore’s starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Ravens fans are hoping not to have to see James come in, but, historically, Stanley has only played in two games since signing a contract extension in October of 2020.

Here are a few more rumors from the AFC West, starting with two rumors out of Sin City:

  • Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels told reporters that star tight end Darren Waller returned to practice today, according to Paul Gutierrez of ESPN. Waller had missed six practices since mid-August due to a hamstring injury. Adding Waller back to the mix gives Las Vegas a dangerous array of pass catchers with Waller and receivers Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow.
  • After the trade yesterday that sent former second-round pick Trayvon Mullen to Arizona and with Darius Phillips not making the initial 53-man roster, Raiders nickel cornerback Nate Hobbs is finally set to move to an outside cornerback gig, according to Vic Tafur of The Athletic. The team’s coaches have long been boasting of their plans to move Hobbs around on defense, and they now have a prime opportunity to see what he can do on the outside of the secondary.
  • The Broncos surprised quite a few when punter Sam Martin failed to make their initial 53-man roster. Instead, Denver will move forward with former-Steelers punter Corliss Waitman. General manager George Paton attempted to defend the cut by telling reporters that the move was not a reflection of contracts but one of abilities, according to Troy Renck of Denver 7. Martin has been a starting punter since being drafted in the league back in 2013 by the Lions. He had signed a three-year, $7.05MM contract to join the Broncos and was headed into the final year of the deal set to make $2.25MM. Martin reportedly refused to take a pay cut for the 2022 season and Denver now will rely on the leg of Waitman, who holds an $825K cap hit. According to Paton, though, the $1.4MM cap room cleared by cutting Martin had nothing to do with it. Also according to Paton, Waitman, who has two games of NFL play under his belt, simply beat out the veteran kicker with 139 games of NFL experience. Broncos fans will get to judge for themselves when they see Waitman’s regular season debut in a Broncos uniform in Seattle on Monday Night Football.

Bills To Sign P Sam Martin

Sam Martin didn’t spend much time on the open market. The veteran punter is signing with the Bills, reports NFL Network’s Peter Schrager (on Twitter). His college Tom Pelissero adds that it is a one-year deal. 

The move comes just hours after ESPN’s Field Yates reported that Martin visited Buffalo (Twitter link). That comes as little surprise, given the team’s need at the position. Indeed, Mike Klis of 9News indicated (via Twitter) that, assuming his physical went well, a contract would be inevitable.

Martin, 32, was released by the Broncos on Monday. That ended his two-year tenure in the Mile High City, where his punting average (46.4) slightly outperformed that of his time with the Lions. While he was only mid-pack statically speaking last season, it was reported that the decision to move on from him was financially driven. Denver will replace Martin with Corliss Waitman.

The Bills have been in need of a punter since they waived Matt Araiza. The sixth-round rookie was named in a lawsuit alleging he was involved in a gang rape at San Diego State; the team parted ways with him shortly thereafter. That left Buffalo without a punter, and they worked out a number of options to potentially serve as replacements.

Martin was one of a pair of notable veterans to be let go recently in favor of younger, less expensive options. The Titans released Brett Kern on Monday, leaving him as arguably the top option on the market. His personal ties to the Buffalo area made Kern a favorite to land with the Bills, but their special teams should nevertheless be much less of a concern now with Martin in the fold.

Broncos To Release P Sam Martin

The Broncos will bail on Sam Martin‘s contract after two seasons. They are releasing the veteran punter Monday, Ian Rapoport of tweets. Martin had been competing with Corliss Waitman for Denver’s punting gig. Money looks to have motivated this transaction, however.

Martin’s three-year contract carried a $2.25MM base salary for 2022. The Broncos will pocket that amount by cutting their incumbent punter, who had no guarantees remaining in his three-year, $7.05MM deal. That money was behind this release, per 9News’ Mike Klis, who notes the team was informed Sunday that Martin would not accept a pay cut (Twitter link).

Martin’s 46.0-per-punt average ranked just 18th in the NFL last season, despite playing in Denver’s friendlier punting confines. The former Lions punter, who is going into his age-32 season, should still generate interest on the market.

This move also comes after the Titans released former Broncos punter Brett Kern, putting two veteran punters in free agency. Both were vested veterans, passing them through waivers.

Waitman, 27, has just two games’ worth of NFL experience. Both came in 2021 for the Steelers. Pittsburgh waived Waitman in January, leading to a Denver claim. It could well lead to the South Alabama alum being the Broncos’ Week 1 punter. Waitman is only set to make $825K this season.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/7/22

Today’s updates for the Reserve/COVID-19 list:

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/3/22

Here are Monday’s activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: OT Mike Remmers (remains on IR)

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: RB Raymond Calais (remains on IR)

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Broncos Sign P Max Duffy

The Broncos are bringing in some competition for Sam Martin. The team announced today that they’ve signed punter Max Duffy.

The Australian-born athlete spent a handful of years in the Australian Football League, but he announced his retirement from that league in 2017 as he pursued a career in American football. He ended up catching on with Kentucky, appearing in 34 games during his collegiate career. Duffy averaged 46 yards on his 151 collegiate punts, and he earned All-SEC honors in both 2019 and 2020. He also received a unanimous first-team All-American nod in 2019.

Duffy was actually drafted by Toronto in the fourth round of April’s CFL Draft, but the 28-year-old will instead try his luck in the NFL.

In Denver, Duffy will have to compete with Martin for a roster spot. The veteran punter joined Denver last offseason on a three-year, $7MM deal, and his final 2020 punting numbers (including 46.8 yards per punt) were on-par with his career marks. Martin did struggle a bit on kickoffs, averaging a career-low 57-yards per kick.

Contract Details: Zuerlein, Bills, Cardinals

Here are the latest details from the second wave of free agency. All links courtesy of the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson, unless otherwise noted.

AFC East Notes: Lawson, Dolphins, Jets

Despite Shaq Lawson being in trade rumors for much of his tenure with the Bills, the current regime was interested in bringing him back. However, it does not appear Buffalo’s interest in retaining the former Doug Whaley first-round pick was extensive. The Bills were open to re-signing Lawson, but Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic notes such interest was contingent on Lawson returning at a certain price (subscription required). But once the Dolphins guaranteed two years of Lawson’s $10MM-AAV contract, the Bills let him walk. Buffalo signed both Mario Addison and versatile D-lineman Quinton Jefferson to cover for Lawson’s exit.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Shifting to Lawson’s new team, the Dolphins received good news on the health statuses of two of their recent free agent additions. Emmanuel Ogbah said he has been cleared for football work for around a month but has yet to partake in workouts because of COVID-19 concerns, Cameron Wolfe of tweets. Ogbah will receive a Chiefs Super Bowl ring, but the defensive end’s contributions ended midseason because of a torn pectoral muscle.
  • Jordan Howard also will be full-go when the Dolphins reconvene, Wolfe adds. After a strong start to his Eagles season, Howard suffered a shoulder injury that derailed his momentum. He played in just one game after Week 9 but did not log any carries. Howard was inactive for Philadelphia’s playoff game. The Dolphins gave him a two-year, $9.75MM contract.
  • Sam Martin ended up signing with the Broncos, but the Jets were interested in adding the former Lions punter, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News notes. The Broncos gave Martin a three-year, $7.05MM deal; Mehta adds the Jets were not budgeting that much for their punter position. Martin’s $2.35MM salary ranks 15th among punters. The Jets have opted not to re-sign incumbent punter Lac Edwards, their four-year punter, and Mehta adds they have remained in contact with former Dolphins and Bills punter Matt Darr. Ian Berryman, a 2019 Steelers UDFA, is the only punter on the Jets’ roster. The team remains interested in another addition here. Bringing considerable punter news to the table, Mehta adds that the Jets are doing their homework on Texas A&M’s Braden Mann — the 2018 Ray Guy award winner.
  • While things could certainly change in the coming months, the Patriots appear set to make Jarrett Stidham the favorite to be their first non-Tom Brady Week 1 starter since 2001.