BRONCOS

Here’s why the Broncos chose Corliss Waitman over Sam Martin at punter

Aug 29, 2022, 10:10 AM | Updated: 10:41 am
Sam Martin and Corliss Waitman...
(Photos by Andrew Mason / DenverFan.com)
(Photos by Andrew Mason / DenverFan.com)

The new ownership of the Broncos has seemingly boundless wealth. Money is no object to the Walton-Penner family ownership consortium.

But the hard salary cap will always put a check on things.

And for Sam Martin, the fact that he had a $2,733,334 cap figure compared to Corliss Waitman’s $825,000 number meant that the 10-year veteran had to be appreciably better for what special-teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes wanted to do in order to remain with the Broncos.

Martin wasn’t.

As was first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Martin declined a contract restructure. Thus, the Broncos will release Martin and go with Waitman, whose only previous regular-season experience was a two-game stint with Pittsburgh last year.

Even though the Broncos will still have $483,334 of dead money to carry on Martin’s contract, they will save $1.425 million of cap space in the exchange.

By choosing Waitman, the Broncos also went with the punter who had the better hang time in the preseason. Martin had the superior gross average, but Waitman had the better net average.

Their preseason game data is as follows:

Martin:

  • Punts: 4
  • Punts returned: 2
  • Gross average: 49.0
  • Net average: 36.3
  • Average hang time: 4.09 seconds

Waitman:

  • Punts: 6
  • Punts returned: 0
  • Gross average: 43.3
  • Net average: 40.0
  • Average hang time: 4.65 seconds

That being said, the net averages would have been exactly the same — and perhaps slightly better for Martin, potentially as good as 41.0 yards — if Jacob Bobenmoyer had managed to knock Martin’s third-quarter punt Saturday back into play. Instead, Bobenmoyer’s unforced error resulted in a touchback.

But another key stat was punts returned. Waitman’s hang time led to a series of fair catches. Martin had two punts in the preseason with sub-4.00-second hang times that opponents returned, including a 21-yard runback Saturday.

Stukes noted last week that the punters’ work in practice would factor in as part of the sample size to determine who won the job. But those snaps also showed little separation — and Waitman having the better hang time.

For example, the first day of live punts in training camp was on Day 4. Martin had an average hang time of 4.21 seconds, but Waitman’s average was 4.82 seconds. On Day 12, Martin’s average hang time was 4.19 seconds on five punts, while Waitman averaged 4.86 seconds on six punts.

Furthermore, in the four days of live special-teams work in camp, every hang time clocked by this reporter of over 5.00 seconds belonged to Waitman.

The fact that Waitman is a left-footed punter means the Broncos will offer a different dimension to opponents. The ball spins differently for lefties than for right-footed punters, who represent a vast majority of the league’s complement at the position. This is one reason why Patriots coach Bill Belichick — who has special teams in his background — used left-footed punters for most of his now 23 seasons as New England’s sideline boss.

But ultimately, with the salary-cap figures in play, Martin needed to be substantially better than Waitman.

This summer, he wasn’t. And in one key way — hang time — Waitman was better.

And that’s why the Broncos will move on.

***

Broncos

Javonte Williams...
Jake Shapiro

Javonte Williams hurt, won’t return to Broncos game with leg injury

The Broncos' second-season standout running back Javonte Williams went down in Denver's Week 4 contest against the Las Vegas Raiders
17 hours ago
Melvin Gordon...
Jake Shapiro

Watch: Another inexcusable fumble by Melvin Gordon costs the Broncos

The Las Vegas Raiders have taken the lead over the Denver Broncos with their first defensive score in three years, thanks to Melvin Gordon
17 hours ago
Russell Wilson...
Will Petersen

Watch: Russell Wilson finds Courtland Sutton for TD, Broncos lead early

On third-and-goal, a patient Russell Wilson found Courtland Sutton in the back of the end zone to give the Broncos a 7-3 lead
17 hours ago
Allegiant Stadium...
Andrew Mason

Broncos-Raiders inactives: D.J. Jones, Dalton Risner good to go

There were no surprises among the Broncos' game-day inactives.
17 hours ago
Davante Adams...
Cecil Lammey

The Broncos game plan for beating the Raiders in Week 4

When Denver travels to Las Vegas on Sunday, they'll have their hands full with a winless team that is suddenly backed into a corner
2 days ago
Russell Wilson...
Andrew Mason

Three numbers to know for Denver Broncos-Las Vegas Raiders

For all that hasn't gone right for the Broncos' offense, they've done something in each of the last two games they never did last year -- and the difference has been preparation and Russell Wilson's leadership.
2 days ago
Here’s why the Broncos chose Corliss Waitman over Sam Martin at punter