Everyone expected the tendering of 2022 starting punter Corliss Waitman meant the position was solidified. Then Denver went and signed former Bronco Riley Dixon.Embed from Getty Images
Riley Dixon, who played for the Broncos from 2016-2017 after being drafted by Denver in the 2016 NFL Draft, was signed on a two-year deal on Wednesday worth $3.5 million. The move comes as a surprise to many, as Corliss Waitman was given a tender just a few days before this signing. However, the addition of Dixon brings some extra experience to the position.
Dixon, a seventh-round pick in 2016, spent two seasons with the Broncos before being traded to the New York Giants in 2018. During his time in Denver, he averaged 45.7 yards per punt and was known for his ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory with an above average 5.6% touchback percentage.
Although Dixon is a former Bronco, the only teammate left from his time in Denver is Justin Simmons, the entire front-office and the only coach left is Vance Joseph who was his head coach in 2016 and 2017 but is the defensive coordinator now. He will also not compete with Waitman for the starting job, as Waitman was released shortly after this signing and signed with the New England Patriots whom he started his career with.
Overall, the signing of Riley Dixon is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Broncos. If he can return to his form from his second year in New York, he will provide a boost to the special teams unit. I would have preferred to see a battle with Waitman, but new special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica saw something he like in Dixon more than Waitman. This comes in an offseason that has seen specials teams get a boost with additional signings of players like CB Tremon Smith and tendering LB Jonas Griffith.
While Waitman had an ok first season with the Broncos, he lead the league in punts with 96, but only had the 20th best net yards per punt at 46.6. Dixon brings some proven experience to the table and the 10th best net yards per punt of 48.4. Dixon spent three seasons with the Giants, averaging 45.2 yards per punt. So the 2022 average was no outlier, Dixon has a strong leg. That has never been the problem, what has is his accuracy with that power as he was 33rd in the league (there is only 32 teams) with an inside the 20 percentage of just 26.8%. The leader in this category was San Francisco 49er Mitch Wishnowsky at 52.5%.
This move by the Broncos shows that they are not just settling for mediocrity at the punter position. They want someone who can consistently flip the field and give them an advantage in field position. When Dixon is right, he can do this in spades, let’s hope the magic tutelage of Kotwica who has never had a special teams unit rank outside the top-10 that he lead will do to Dixon what it has done for every kicker he has had under him.
You can listen to Riley give his reasons for returning to Dove Valley courtesy of Denver Broncos YouTube channel:
If Dixon can replicate his success from his stint with the Giants, then Denver will have one of the best punting units in the league. It will be interesting to see how this change in personnel plays out.