Monday was a busy day for the New England Patriots. Not only did the team return to practice and welcome multiple previously injured players back to the field, it also parted ways with one of its longest-tenured members: Ryan Allen, who joined the Patriots as an undrafted rookie in 2013 and went on to win three Super Bowls with the organization, was released. Let’s find out what the move that now ends the competition for the punter spot means for the reigning world champions.
Jake Bailey is now the guy at the punter position
The most obvious outcome of Allen’s release is this: rookie Jake Bailey will take over as New England’s punter. The two competed for the role ever since Bailey was selected by the Patriots in the fifth round of this year’s draft, with the youngster consistently showing his upside during practice; he posted tremendous hang-times on a regular basis and also performed well when it came to directional kicking.
The first right-footed punter to start a season for the Patriots since Tom Tupa in 1998, Bailey showed enough progress and promise during the summer to give the team confidence to move on from the incumbent. While he did have some inconsistencies still in training camp, it sure looks like the Patriots are optimistic when it comes to the first-year man’s development with the season opener not even three weeks away.
New England will have a new holder...
Holding the football on field goal and extra point attempts is an underrated part of being a punter in New England. With Allen gone, there will therefore also be a transition from one holder to another. So far, Bailey has seen some action in this area: he held during practice from time to time and also played the role during Saturday’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans. By all accounts, the 22-year-old looked solid working with long snapper Joe Cardona and place kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
...and potentially kickoff specialist as well
Speaking of Gostkowski, the veteran has been among the NFL’s best when it comes to kicking off for quite some time now. Despite his previous success in this area, however, the Patriots might opt to hand kickoff duties over to Bailey: the rookie served in this role at Stanford and during his 2018 senior season kicked off 72 times, with 60 of the kicks resulting in touchbacks and the returns gaining an average of 33.2 yards.
The return number is probably more reflective of the team’s kick coverage than Bailey’s performance, though. His only real blemish might therefore be that two of his kickoffs went out of bounds last year. If he wants to get a hold of the role and in turn allow the 35-year-old Gostkowski to focus exclusively on place kicks, he needs to become a trustworthy performer. Whether or not the team thinks he can become that will be seen soon.
The Patriots create $780,000 in cap space...
During free agency, the Patriots re-signed Allen to a one-year, $1.5 million contract — a deal that included only $100,000 in guaranteed money. Those guarantees will now be the only part of the 29-year-old’s deal to remain on New England’s pay roll in 2019. Keeping them in mind and adding a new player to the top-51 list — only a club’s 51 biggest salary cap hits are counting against the cap during the offseason — instead of Allen, the transaction creates net savings for the team of $780,000. According to the Boston Sports Journal’s Miguel Benzan, New England now sits at $12.6 million in available money.
...and an open spot on their 90-man roster
Furthermore, the Patriots parting ways with Allen also frees up a spot on the team’s 90-man offseason roster. How it will be filled is up in the air, but it would not be surprising to see the club bolster the positions that have recently been bitten by the injury bug: the tight end spot might still benefit from some reinforcements, as would a defensive edge position that saw both Shilique Calhoun and Derek Rivers go down during last week’s game in Tennessee.