2023 Stock Watch – P Braden Mann – Purchased

With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we have turned our attention. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.

Player: P Braden Mann

Stock Value: Purchased

Reasoning: The Steelers late last week claimed punter Braden Mann off waivers after he was let go by the New York Jets. This adds a second punter to the offseason roster behind starter Pressley Harvin III, which prevents the team from having to worry about adding competition through undrafted free agency.

The Steelers were the only team in the 2021 NFL Draft to use a draft pick on a punter, doing so on Pressley Harvin III in the seventh round. The Jets weren’t the only team in 2020 to draft a punter, but they were the first of two teams, using a sixth-round pick on Braden Mann out of Texas A&M.

A Texas native, Mann grossed over 48 yards per punt during his collegiate career and even made 13 tackles at 5’11”, 198 pounds. He has been New York’s punter for the past three seasons. According to reports, the Jets were seeking to trade him but released him after finding no partner.

It’s worth noting that Mann was projected to have qualified for the Proven Performance Escalator payment on the Level One tier, which raises a player’s fourth-year salary of his rookie contract to be comparable to a restricted free agent tender and thus would have pushed his base salary to north of $2.6 million.

The Steelers did the same thing last year with wide receiver Miles Boykin, claiming him off waivers after the Baltimore Ravens let him go. They were willing to pay him at the elevated price tag to play special teams, primarily.

Yet this year they decided not to tender any of their restricted free agents, including James Pierre and J.C. Hassenauer, having re-signed the former and the latter leaving to sign elsewhere. I’m not sure how willing they would be to pay a punter that much.

But is he any good? Well, he’s grossed 45.4 yards per punt since entering the league, but his net is only 39.5, and these days you definitely want that number north of 40. He’s put nearly 30 percent of his punts inside the 20, but he does have 14 touchbacks, including eight last year.

Notably, Mann is also a kickoff specialist with over 70 percent of his kickoffs resulting in touchbacks, so that substantially increases his potential value if he were to make the team. He could take some of the work off the shoulders of Chris Boswell, who has dealt with some injuries.

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