Another unfortunate casualty of the 2021 New York Jets season opener was Braden Mann.
The 2020 draft pick was the top punter prospect in the nation last year and Joe Douglas jumped at the opportunity to add him to the rebuild. Just as Mann was beginning to really hit his stride this summer (seven out of 12 preseason punts downed inside the 20, 58-yard long), a freak accident occurred in Week 1.
According to reporter Andy Vasquez, the second-year punter’s leg took a shot as he was hit by a Carolina Panthers’ rusher after a holding call against special teams blocker Daniel Brown. In a truly Jet-like insult-to-injury call, Gang Green was the one penalized as their young punter left the game with a grimace.
Kicker Matt Ammendola ended up replacing Mann and although he performed admirably in his stead, head coach Robert Saleh all but confirmed they would look elsewhere at punter after it was announced that Mann would miss a minimum of four to six weeks with a knee sprain.
“I thought Ammendola did a great job but we’re going to work out some guys, I don’t think Braden’s got a surgery situation,” the Jets HC replied with a chuckle when asked if the kicker would continue operating at both positions.
The Jets didn’t waste much time, working out five punters on September 14.
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Jets Hold Tryouts at Punter
To quote “The Dark Knight” and Heath Ledger’s legendary Joker character, “there’s only one spot open right now so we’re gonna have tryouts.”
The list of would-be replacements included some haves and have-nots.
- Lachlan Edwards, former Jets punter from 2016-19.
- Colby Wadman, two years of NFL experience with the Denver Broncos from 2018-19.
- Ryan Winslow, recently spent time with the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers practice squads.
- Corliss Waitman, was with the Las Vegas Raiders briefly in training camp (2021).
- Thomas Morstead, a 12-year NFL veteran of the New Orleans Saints.
No offense to the others, but so long as age was not a factor, this really wasn’t much of a competition. Shortly after the workouts were announced, NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero reported that Morstead had agreed to sign with the Jets.
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Morstead Will Take Over at Punter
Douglas and Saleh smartly chose the option with the least risk attached. Morstead has been a model of consistency at the position throughout his career, and although he’s now 35 years of age, punters tend to have a pretty long shelf-life.
The respected vet was part of the Saints cap-crunch this offseason but make no mistake, he can still boot it. According to Pro Football Focus, Morstead’s net average did decrease by 3.04 yards per punt last season but he also pinned 25 kicks inside the 20 (tied for 11th in the NFL) compared to two touchbacks.
This is not just any old free agent. This is a former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion that has mastered his craft over a long period of time. He may not have the distance that he once had but Morstead brings a high level of experience and savvy to the Jets special teams room — something they didn’t even have with Mann.
He could also serve as a mentor for first-year starter Ammendola, with a wealth of knowledge on kick-offs and a steady hand on field goal holds.
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