Jake Bailey has had a disappointing season so far, which has now led to the New England Patriots “assessing their options” at the punter position.
According to a report by ESPN’s Mike Reiss, the Patriots are expected to bring a handful of free agent punters in. The team adding one to its 16-player practice squad to improve the depth at the position is seen as a realistic scenario.
Bailey, 25, has been the Patriots’ featured punter since arriving in the fifth round of the 2019 draft. An All-Pro during his second season, he has not returned to those levels of play since — with his 2022 campaign so far marked by inconsistent play. Bailey is ranked just 30th in the NFL with a punting average of 43.2 yards per kick, and 31st with a net of 35.4.
Monday’s 33-14 loss to the Chicago Bears was further proof of the Patriots’ inefficiency in the punt game. Bailey attempted four kicks versus the Bears with his average punt traveling just 40 yards; New England’s coverage team allowed Chicago returner Dante Pettis to average 11 yards on his three runbacks resulting in a net punt gain of only 31.8 yards.
After the game, head coach Bill Belichick was noncommittal when asked about the performance in this part of the game.
“There was no wind. It was misting. It’s not like punting in a dome, but certainly seen worst. Last year in Buffalo. It’s the National Football League. Play outdoors in New England in October, November, December, it’s going to be whatever it is,” Belichick said.
“We need to play better in all three phases of the game, special teams, offense, defense. Coach better and play better. Every player, every coach, every unit, falls under that. We all need to do a better job. That includes everybody, that doesn’t exclude anybody.”
While Bailey has struggled, the Patriots moving on from him still seems unlikely. The team, after all, signed him to a three-year, $9.1 million contract extension in August.
Adding more depth behind him, however, might help limit his workload as punter and kickoff specialist in hopes of having him return to the levels of play he reached before.