The New York Jets will likely add a punter to compete against Braden Mann
It was a rough 2022 season for the New York Jets‘ special teams unit. The punting unit was particularly woeful.
New York’s punting unit cost the team an estimated total of 8.5 points compared to league average, per Football Outsiders’ data, which made it the 28th-ranked punting unit in the NFL.
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Third-year punter Braden Mann had a rough season. Shanks were a common sight, and while he occasionally booted punts with solid distance, those blasts often out-kicked the coverage, which contributed to some of the big returns that New York allowed.
Mann finished 22nd out of 34 qualifiers with an average of 41.0 net yards per punt. Advanced metrics were even less fond of Mann than traditional metrics. According to Puntalytics, Mann ranked 24th in pEPA per punt (“Punter EPA Per Punt”, a custom metric by Puntalytics that isolates the punter from factors outside of his control) with a mark of -0.01.
The Jets drafted Mann in the sixth round of the 2020 draft hoping he could become one of the best punters in the league. Instead, he has been consistently below-average across his three-year career.
Mann remains under contract for one more season. However, considering the underwhelming production he has provided throughout his career to date, it seems likely the Jets will seek out a legitimate competitor to battle Mann for the punting job in 2023.
Let’s pinpoint some players the Jets could target.
Here is a list of unrestricted free agent punters in 2023, including their ranking in pEPA per punt out of 34 qualifiers in the 2022 regular season.
- Sam Martin, BUF (age 32.9): 9th (0.07)
- Thomas Morstead, MIA (age 36.8): 10th (0.07)
- Riley Dixon, LAR (age 29.4): 18th (0.03)
- Bradley Pinion, ATL (age 28.6): 19th (0.03)
- Jamie Gillan, NYG (age 25.5): 23rd (-0.01)
- J.K. Scott, LAC (age 26.2): 27th (-0.05)
- Andy Lee, ARI (age 40.4): 29th (-0.05)
- Matt Haack, IND (age 28.5): 30th (-0.09)
For reference, the average pEPA/punt among 34 qualifiers in 2022 was 0.02.
I think the most intriguing option would be to see if Thomas Morstead would be willing to come back.
Morstead played seven games for the Jets in 2021 while Mann recovered from a knee injury. The veteran was fantastic. Morstead averaged a whopping 0.18 pEPA/punt during his time with the Jets, which ranked third-best among qualified punters. New York released Morstead once Mann returned (the Falcons picked him up and he played seven games there to finish out the season).
Despite turning 36 years old in 2022, Morstead proved he still has plenty of gas left in the tank as he played 17 games for the Dolphins and finished 10th-best in pEPA/punt with a solid mark of 0.07.
It seemed like Morstead enjoyed his short time with the Jets. Joe Douglas should explore a reunion.
If Morstead does not work out, the Jets could try to hurt another division rival by pulling Sam Martin from the Bills. Martin ranked ninth in pEPA/punt in 2022 and 12th in 2021.
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Using another draft pick on a punter seems unlikely after Douglas struck out on Mann, but the Jets could have a chance to target one of these players in the undrafted free agent market.
Perhaps the Jets bring in a hometown hero with Adam Korsak of Rutgers.
Korsak was the 2022 recipient of the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s top punter. He ranked fourth out of 126 qualified FBS punters (min. 25 punts) with 43.5 net yards per punt, and his total of 36 fair catches forced ranked second. Korsak only had 10.6% of his punts returned, which placed second-best. He also showed strong camaraderie with his coverage team as he placed second with 25 punts downed by a teammate.
Bryce Baringer of Michigan State led the nation with 45.7 net yards per punt. While Korsak thrives at forcing fair catches and preventing returns, Baringer is better known for his big leg. Baringer led the nation with 49.0 gross yards per punt.
Oklahoma’s Michael Turk placed fifth in the nation with 42.8 net yards per punt. Like Baringer, Turk is a big-leg punter. He placed fourth in the nation with 46.6 gross yards per punt. Turk will have to do a better job of controlling his power in the NFL as he ranked second in the nation with 10 touchbacks.