Allen Park — When Sam Martin signed a lucrative extension with the Detroit Lions in 2016, he was one of the best punters in the NFL. And he responded to the new deal by turning in the best season in franchise history.
Nearly three years removed from the peak of his career, Martin and the Lions agreed to a restructured deal entering the 2019 season, one that will pay him $700,000 less this year, to $1.7 million, while granting him the opportunity to hit free agency a year earlier. That sets up the potential for better long-term earnings if he can return to his previous form.
Martin's decline began with an unfortunate offseason accident in 2017, a foot injury caused by a conch shell, which landed him on the non-football injury list to start the season. He bounced back slightly last year, but still finished with a net average 5.0 yards worse than his career-best in 2016.
During this offseason, Martin's leg strength has looked better on the practice field, but the preseason numbers haven't reflected it. His net average was 38.5 yards per boot on 11 attempts, more than half the punts were inside the 20, suggesting he was consistently limited on how far he could kick it.
In addition to punts, Martin has continued to handle kickoffs for the Lions, as well as serve as Matt Prater's holder on field goals and extra points.
Martin's deal technically still runs through the 2020 season, but is now voidable at the end of this season, making him a free agent.