Was the Broncos final decision at punter really based on money?
When the Broncos final 27 cuts started trickling in on Monday, there were a few surprises. As the team paired its 2022 roster from 80 to 53 players, some well-known names failed to make cut.
Some played well in the preseason, hoping that was enough. Ultimately, it wasn’t for the likes of McTelvin Agim.
Others had been with the organization for a while, providing a familiarity factor. In the end, that didn’t get players like Kendall Hinton over the hump.
But one move earned a little more attention than it might’ve deserved. When the Broncos decided to go with Corliss Waitman as their punter – going with the relatively inexperienced 27-year-old over the incumbent, Sam Martin – it was a bit of a surprise.
It left many wondering why Denver would decide to change course at that position. After all, neither had stood out in training camp or the preseason. So why go with an unproven option?
The answer was provided right after the news broke. Or so everyone thought.
#Broncos P Sam Martin is being released today by Denver after indicating he would refuse any pay reduction. He was a top 5 punter statistically in 2021 and set Broncos all-time record for net punting last season. Will have interest.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 29, 2022
It was all about money. Martin refused to take a pay cut in the final season of his three-year, $7.05-million deal, so the Broncos went with the punter scheduled to earn $825,000 in 2022.
That seemed to make sense. And most people took it at face value. After all, teams make decisions for financial reasons all of the time. Such is life in a salary-cap sport.
But on Tuesday, George Paton was quick to shoot down this report. The Broncos general manager has a different explanation for the move.
“It had nothing to do with it,” Paton said when asked if money played a role in the decision. “We picked the best punter for us; the punter with the most upside, biggest leg. Money had nothing to do with it.”
The preseason stats certainly support the GM’s claim. Waitman had a better net punting average (40.0 to 36.3) and had more of his punts resulted in a fair catch (3 to 0). Both stats are an indication of leg strength and hang time.
The number also support Paton’s position. The math doesn’t suggest that money was a factor.
Currently, the Broncos are a little more than $11 million under the cap. Waitman’s contract, plus the dead money associated with cutting Martin, has a cap hit of just over $1.3 million. Keeping the veteran would’ve roughly doubled that amount, which would’ve left the Broncos still $10 million or so in cap space.
“We have plenty of cap room,” Paton explained. “We are not going to get rid of a good player that can help us win for money.”
In a lot of ways, the insinuation that money played a role in the decision is an insult to Waitman. It suggests that Martin would’ve won the job if he’d been willing to take a pay cut.
“Corliss is someone that is really talented,” Paton said about his team’s new punter. (He has a) big leg, lefty. We think he has unique ability for hang time, directional. Very good athlete. Very good holder.”
Is Waitman better than Martin? Time will tell. But one thing seems pretty clear: The Broncos didn’t make their punter decision based on money.