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Patriots 2022 offseason preview: New England’s kicking game operation might see some changes

Related: Patriots offseason preview: Safety position could lose its long-time leader in 2022

New England Patriots v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

With Super Bowl LVI in the rear-view mirror, the entire NFL is now on to the offseason. The New England Patriots have been in that position for quite some time now: their 2021 season already came to an end in early January, following a wild card playoff loss in Buffalo.

The offseason projects to be an interesting one for the Patriots. The team did go 10-7 in the regular season and returned to the playoffs, but it does face plenty of questions after its late-season collapse and with numerous starters in all three phases headed towards free agency. With that in mind, let’s break down where the Patriots stand at this point in time one position at a time.

Today, we wrap up our positional offseason preview with a look at the specialists.

Jake Bailey

Age: 24

Experience: 3

Contract status: Under contract through the 2022 season. Bailey has a salary cap hit of $4.06 million in 2022.

2021 review: Coming off one of the best punting seasons in recent memory, Bailey and the Patriots’ punt coverage unit struggled in 2021. While he was still solid as far as his gross punting average was concerned — his 47.3 had him ranked eight in the league — his net of 39.6 was just the 21st best in the league.

Furthermore, a league-high three of Bailey’s punt attempts were blocked. The 24-year-old is not entirely to blame for all of those issues, but he still was unable to stay on the All-Pro level he displayed the previous season.

2022 preview: Even though New England’s punting team was among the league’s worst last season, Bailey will not be going anywhere this season. In fact, he is a realistic candidate to receive a contract extension at one point in the future: Bailey has proven himself a reliable punter, kickoff specialist and holder, and keeping him in the fold appears to be the best business decision for the club.

Joe Cardona

Age: 29

Experience: 7

Contract status: Under contract through the 2022 season. Cardona has a salary cap hit of $1.33 million in 2022.

2021 review: Cardona may be flying under the radar given his position on the roster, but he was again a valuable part of New England’s kicking game operation in 2021. No matter if it was field goals, extra points or punts, his snaps were generally on point. Cardona’s reliability extended to his availability as well: he played in all 18 games for the team, and now has 126 on his résumé.

2022 preview: Cardona is in the same basic situation as Jake Bailey. He has proven himself a reliable member of the Patriots’ special teams group but is heading into a contract year. Even though he will turn 30 in April, he too is a candidate to receive another long-term extension to be kept in the fold and help groom a new kicker once Nick Folk leaves the organization — maybe as early as this year.

Nick Folk

Age: 37

Experience: 15

Contract status: Set to enter unrestricted free agency on March 16.

2021 review: As opposed to 2020, the Patriots did not wait long to bring Folk back during last year’s free agency: they re-signed him in March and despite briefly releasing him on roster cutdown day eventually reinserted him as their number one place kicker before the start of the regular season.

Folk answered the call by having another quality season. The veteran went 36-for-39 on field goal tries — including a perfect 31-for-31 from inside the 50 — and also was successful on 42 of his 47 extra point attempts. In Week 5, he was named the AFC’s Special Teams Player of the Year.

2022 preview: Heading into free agency for the second straight year, Folk will likely receive some interest despite his age: the 37-year-old is coming off an impressive season and is among the better place kickers in the NFL. That said, the Patriots should be able to make a competitive offer despite their challenging salary cap situation — if they so choose.

Quinn Nordin

Age: 23

Experience: 1

Contract status: Under contract through the 2022 season after signing a reserve/futures contract with the Patriots.

2021 review: The lone member of the Patriots’ undrafted rookie class, Nordin showed some promise over the summer and did make it through roster cutdowns. However, he was placed on injured reserve and eventually released and sent to the practice squad. Nordin did not appear in any games during his first NFL season.

2022 preview: Nordin’s status is tied directly to that of Nick Folk. If the veteran is re-signed in free agency, the two will likely compete for the place kicking role over the summer. If not, however, Nordin should be the next man up.