Sam Martin: expensive or unexpendable?

Guaranteed money doesn’t guarantee anything for Sam Martin this coming season.

In this edition of our 2018 Roster Review series, we break down Sam Martin’s role going into 2019 with questions regarding his leg, cap, and competition loom in training camp.

Sam Martin

Outlook before 2018:

In his first year of a four year, $13.6 million contract, Sam Martin missed seven games in the 2017 season due to injury. Going into 2018, it was imperative that Martin bounce back as the Lions brought in cannon-legged kicker/punter combo Ryan Santoso to compete for the job in camp.

While it looked like there would be a real competition at first, Santoso struggled to find consistency in training camp and through preseason games, and it became clear pretty quickly the job would remain with Martin.

Actual role in 2018:

2018 Stats: 16 games, 44.7 yards/punt average on 74 punts

Martin remained healthy through all sixteen games this season, but it wasn’t without caveat. Martin wasn’t his old self, and his 44.7-yard punting average was a far cry from his 2016 average of 48.5 yards that earned him his hefty contract.

It was hard to tell whether or not that was entirely his fault. While Martin definitely blasted the ball a lot better in some games compared to others, the Lions had significant struggles in coverage even when Martin hit balls with solid distance and hang time.

There has been talk that Martin hasn’t been the same since injury, but the punting struggles in 2018 may not necessarily be on the punter. Only time will tell.

Outlook for 2019:

Contract Status: Under Contract

Martin still has two years left on his contract, but guaranteed money doesn’t guarantee anything in his case. Ryan Santoso signed a futures contract with the Lions this offseason that surely isn’t anywhere nearly as pricey as Martin’s contract. In 2019, Martin will count $3 millon against the cap with just a $1 million dead cap number. Santoso’s cap hit is reportedly under $500,00.

Santoso will certainly give Martin another run for his money, especially if training camp confirms the notion that Martin’s leg has lost some power since the injury.

All those considered, things didn’t look great for Martin until the Lions brought back John Bonamego as their special teams coordinator. Martin had some of his best years under Bonamego and punt return and coverage units both thrived.

Bonamego’s hire has brought new light to Martin’s future, but expect a real battle to brew in training camp between Martin and Santoso for the Lions’ punter job in 2019.

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