Sam Martin

Lions Activate Sam Martin From NFI List

The Lions will deploy a third punter this season, but this one is at least their preferred option. Sam Martin will return to his post as Detroit’s punter on Sunday night after the Lions activated him from the non-football injury list Saturday, Kyle Meinke of MLive.com reports.

To make room for Martin’s roster return, the Lions cut defensive end Jacquies Smith. The Lions signed Smith last week after the Buccaneers waived him earlier this month.

Martin will make his season debut after residing on Detroit’s NFI list since the preseason concluded. The fifth-year punter dealt with a foot injury sustained away from the team, but the Lions have not disclosed how it occurred. Detroit cut veteran punter Jeff Locke earlier this week. Locke held down the fort for the Lions, who lost previous Martin replacement Kasey Redfern to a season-ending injury suffered during Week 1.

The 27-year-old Martin, though, is coming off a season where he posted the second-best net punting average (44.2 yards) in league history. The one-time fifth-round pick — and recipient of a Lions extension in 2016 — played in 64 regular-season games from 2013-16 prior to suffering this summer setback.

Signed during the Lions’ bye week, Smith did not play in any games for the team. A two-year Tampa Bay starter, Smith suited up for one Bucs contest prior to being waived this season. The fourth-year player will head back onto the waiver wire.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Cut Punter Jeff Locke

The Lions are releasing punter Jeff Locke, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Locke exits just as Sam Martin gears up for his return.

Jeff Locke (vertical)

Locke, 28, spent the first four years of his career with the Vikings. The rival Lions came calling this fall when their punting situation fell apart. First, Martin landed on the NFI list over the summer. Then, Kasey Redfern tore his ACL and MCL during a botched punt-turned-scramble in the preseason.

Locke did a good job of holding down the fort, providing the Lions with quality punting while he also handled kickoffs. In his five games, Locke averaged a career-high 45.3 yards per punt.

Martin, meanwhile, has built a reputation as one of the better punters in the league. The 27-year-old is currently in the midst of a four-year extension inked prior to the 2016 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Set 53-Man Roster

The Lions have met the NFL’s 53-man maximum requirement by making the following transactions:

Traded:

Released:

Waived:

Suspended:

Placed on non-football injury list:

Placed physically unable to perform list:

Lions, P Sam Martin Agree To Extension

The Lions and punter Sam Martin have agreed in principle on a four-year extension, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The new deal is worth $3.4MM per year, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter), which should put him in a tie for the third-highest paid punter in the NFL. The contract, totaling $13.6MM, includes up to $1MM in incentives (Twitter link via Rapoport).Sam Martin (vertical)

Currently, Dustin Colquitt of the Chiefs is the highest paid punter in the NFL with a yearly average of $3.75MM. Behind him is Thomas Morstead (Saints, $3.647MM) and Andy Lee (Panthers, $3.4MM). When finalized, Martin’s deal should put him right in line with Lee.

Martin, a member of the Lions’ 2013 draft class, has established himself as one of the better punters in the league. The 26-year-old is coming off of a strong year, having recorded best net punting numbers of his career at 41.95 yards per punt. Opponents, meanwhile, averaged only 6.12 yards per return.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Stafford, Lions, Slay, Vikings

Matthew Stafford was pleased that quarterback Andrew Luck landed a mega-extension with the Colts, and he hopes that contract will help every other signal-caller during their respective negotiations. “I thought it was a good deal,” Stafford told Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. “I’m never against anybody making as much money as they can. That’s great. This is a limited-time business. We don’t get to play this game until we’re 50, and he’s a heck of a player, deserving of every cent.” Luck is now the league’s highest-paid player, but Stafford himself could soon hold that moniker, as his current contract expires following the 2017 season.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • After signing Darius Slay to a lucrative extension earlier this week, the Lions have turned their attention to punter Sam Martin, as Rothstein writes in a separate piece. Martin, who is entering a contract year and who has established himself as one of the better punters in the league, had the best net punting numbers of his career last season at 41.95 yards per punt, while opponents averaged only 6.12 yards per return. Detroit is in negotiations with Martin’s representatives, and the fourth-year pro could soon be clearing more than $3MM per year.
  • The aforementioned Slay extension is a representative of the Lions‘ strategy going forward under new general manager Bob Quinn, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press“That’s the plan,” said team president Rod Wood. “Build our own through the draft and find good guys, then extend them and keep them here. It’s a lot easier when you know the guy then signing them from free agency when you’re hoping that you know them, so we’re really happy that it worked out this way.” Detroit will have a chance to execute that approach next offseason, when offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Larry Warford are scheduled to become free agents.
  • Offensive lineman Mike Harris is on the non-football injury list while he deals with an illness, and there’s not a specific timeline for his return to Vikings‘ camp, writes Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. As such, Harris’ training camp battle with right guard Brandon Fusco has essentially become a non-competition, and Minnesota’ starting offensive line is now all but certainly going to feature Matt Kalil, Alex Boone, John Sullivan, Fusco, and Andre Smith. I wrote about the Vikings’ depth up front earlier this year, but several of those options are now out of the picture.
  • Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway hinted that 2016 will be his last year in the league, per Shari L. Jones of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (video link). That does not come as much of a surprise, as Greenway hinted even before signing his current one-year deal with Minnesota that he would be hanging up his cleats at season’s end.

Rory Parks contributed to this post.

Lions Rumors: S. Martin, Center, Frohnapfel

Standout players like Ezekiel Ansah and Darius Slay will receive most of the attention when the Lions look to extend members of their 2013 draft class. But Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press warns not to overlook a late-rounder from ’13 — fifth-round punter Sam Martin recently changed agents, hiring Sean Kiernan and Erik Burkhardt of Select Sports, signaling that he’s open to discussing a new contract.

Martin, 26, won’t be in line for any sort of mega-deal, but he should do well for a punter. In 2015, his 42.0 net-yard average was fourth in the NFL, and just three of his 80 attempts went for touchbacks. As Over The Cap’s data shows, to crack the top 10 highest-paid punters in the league, Martin would have to average $2.8MM annually on an extension, and he’s probably a good bet to match or exceed that figure.

Here’s more out of Detroit:

  • The Lions have made a habit of including playing-time incentives and/or per-game roster bonuses in most of the free agent contracts they’ve handed out this offseason, Birkett observes in a piece for the Free Press. New GM Bob Quinn explained that it’s a way to protect the team a little, while also giving players a chance to max out their value. “We want these guys to earn their contracts,” Quinn said.
  • The Lions weren’t in the mix for Alex Mack and haven’t shown any real interest in the second tier of free agent centers, but the team would still like to add some competition for center Travis Swanson, according to Birkett. Quinn was noncommittal when asked if the center position would be a priority in the draft: “If there’s a center there that I like, yeah. I mean, you tell me who’s going to be there and I’ll tell you if it’s a priority or not.”
  • Massachusetts quarterback Blake Frohnapfel met with a Lions scout and quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan in advance of his pro day on Thursday, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Lions Notes: Iloka, Ngata, Reiff, Ansah, Taylor

The Lions plan to target Bengals safety George Iloka when the free agent period begins Match 9, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Cincinnati director of pro personnel Duke Tobin recently said his club would be “proactive” when it comes to re-signing Iloka and the team’s other free agents, but there’s no question the 25-year-old Iloka is set up for a big payday. PFR’s Connor Byrne pointed to Iloka as a possible solution for the Lions at safety in his recent preview of Detroit’s offseason.

Here’s the latest out of the Motor City, all courtesy of Birkett:

  • Free agent defensive lineman Haloti Ngata is “increasingly likely” to return to Detroit, per Birkett. The two sides reportedly aren’t far off in negotiations, and the Lions and Ngata’s representatives have until March 9 to work out what Birkett terms a “bridgeable gap.”
  • While general manager Bob Quinn last week said that Riley Reiff will remain with the Lions at $8MM+ salary, Birkett says that is not an indication the the club is sold on Reiff as its left tackle of the future. Quinn, in fact, would like to upgrade the position, but it’s unlikely that Detroit will be able to find a better option on the free agent market.
  • There’s no indication that the Lions will work out extensions with defensive lineman Ziggy Ansah or Devin Taylor this offseason, according to Birkett. Of course, the club doesn’t need to be in any rush, as it controls both players through the 2016 season (and realistically, through 2017 for Ansah, as Detroit hold a fifth-year option on the defensive end).
  • Punter Sam Martin, like Ansah and Taylor a member of the Lions’ 2013 draft class, has changed agents, which could be a sign that he wants a new deal, writes Birkett.
  • The Lions will be in the market for a receiver if Calvin Johnson follows through on retirement, and Birkett hears that the top free agent pass-catchers — outside of the franchise-tagged Alshon Jeffery, the class is headed by Travis Benjamin and Marvin Jones — are expected to target $6MM per year. For what it’s worth, a report earlier this month indicated that Jones would actually look for $7MM annually.