Sam Martin

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 ESPN.com 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.

Broncos To Sign P Sam Martin

The Broncos have agreed to sign punter Sam Martin to a three-year, $7.05MM contract, per Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network (via Twitter). The deal puts him in the middle of the pack in terms of AAV, but it clearly suggests that Denver plans on having him usurp incumbent Colby Wadman.

Martin was drafted by the Lions in the fifth round of the 2013 draft and served as Detroit’s primary punter from the jump. He agreed to take a pay cut before the 2019 season got underway, but in exchange, the 2020 year of his prior contract became a voidable year, which allowed him to hit the open market this offseason.

As Troy Renck of Denver 7 notes, Martin represents an upgrade over Wadman in most relevant statistical categories for punters. In 2019, the Lions ranked 11th in the league in terms of yards per attempt (41.8), while the Broncos ranked 27th (39.4). The Lions also allowed the fourth-fewest punt return yards, and Martin offers a bigger leg that should play well in the Mile High air.

The Broncos’ punting team has been a constant source of trouble since the club cut Britton Colquitt in 2016, and Denver hopes Martin will bring an end to those woes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Hunt, Steelers, Lions, Packers

It turns out Kareem Hunt‘s suspension won’t be as significant as it originally seemed. The Browns’ running back is suspended for the first eight games of the season, but he would’ve missed the first handful of those games anyway. Hunt underwent sports hernia surgery on Thursday, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. The injury will likely sideline Hunt for the next 4-6 weeks, according to a tweet from Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

The Browns announced in a tweet of their own that a “full recovery is anticipated prior to his return to action in Week 10 of the regular season.” Hunt will be eligible to return from his suspension on November 10th against the Bills. Until then Cleveland’s backfield will still be in good hands, as they have Nick Chubb holding down the fort. Once Hunt returns, the Browns will have a potentially scary one-two punch. Hunt was one of the best running backs in the league before Kansas City cut him last year, scoring 14 touchdowns in just 11 games.

Here’s more from the league’s North divisions:

  • Ben Roethlisberger has a new backup. Second-year player Mason Rudolph has won the competition to be the Steelers’ backup in 2019, sources told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Pittsburgh drafted Rudolph 76th overall last year, and he spent the 2018 season as the third-string passer behind Roethlisberger and Joshua Dobbs. During the preseason Rudolph impressed by completing 65 percent of his passes while throwing four touchdowns and only one interception, and some think he’s a potential heir to Roethlisberger. He hasn’t been cut yet, but it looks like this could be the end of the line for Dobbs, a 2017 fourth-rounder, in Pittsburgh.
  • The Lions gave defensive tackle Damon Harrison an extension last week, and now we have the full details, courtesy of Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. In addition to getting an extra year tacked onto his deal, Harrison also received a $2MM raise for the 2019 season. He also got a $7.5MM signing bonus. His contract now runs through the 2021 season, with an option on the final year that must be exercised by the final day of the 2020 league year.
  • Speaking of Lions contract details, punter Sam Martin had his deal reworked, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Martin had a non-guaranteed base salary of $2.4MM for 2019, which was bumped down to a guaranteed $1.7MM. Yates adds that 2020 is now a voidable year in his contract. Martin took a pay-cut for 2019, but he’ll now get the chance to reach free agency sooner and cash in as a result of the 2020 year becoming voidable when it was previously just non-guaranteed salary.
  •  The Packers have settled on their starting left guard. After a training camp battle between veteran Lane Taylor and rookie Elgton Jenkins, the team has opted to go with Taylor, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “It’s going to be a competition throughout the season, but right now Lane Taylor is the starter,” head coach Matt LaFleur said. Taylor signed with Green Bay as an UDFA back in 2013 and has been with the team ever since. He’s started at least 14 games each of the past three seasons, although his play has been underwhelming at times. The Packers drafted Jenkins 44th overall out of Mississippi State back in April.

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.