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Patriots work out a pair of punters with Jake Bailey’s status up in the air

New England is looking at some under-the-radar punter options.

CFL: AUG 05 Calgary Stampeders at Ottawa Redblacks Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots are taking a look at some potential options at the punter position. Per the NFL transactions wire, the team had Cody Grace and Ben Griffiths in for free agency workouts on Wednesday.

Grace, 26, spent his college career at Arkansas State before getting drafted seventh overall by the Calgary Stampeders in the 2021 Canadian Football League Global Draft. Over his first two seasons with the club, he attempted 160 punts. He averaged a gross gain of 46.9 yards with a net of 40.6. Grace was recognized as a CFL All-Star in 2022, and as a CFL Western All-Star in both his years in Calgary.

Griffiths, 31, originally started his athletic career playing Australian rules football in his home country. He retired from the AFL in 2018 after receiving a scholarship at USC. After four years with the Trojans, the 6-foot-7, 223-pounder, he was drafted ninth overall by the Edmonton Elks in the CFL Global Draft last year.

The workouts come after what had been a turbulent season for New England’s punting game.

The team originally signed fourth-year man Jake Bailey to what was effectively a four-year, $13.5 million contract extension in August. The team showed confidence in his ability to return to the All-Pro form he displayed in 2020, but he instead struggled before being sent to injured reserve in mid-November because of a back injury.

Before hurting his back, Bailey averaged just 42.1 yards per punt with a net of 35.2. He ranked 34th and 35th in the NFL in the respective categories to end the 2022 regular season.

Bailey was designated to return from IR in December and was a regular participant in practice over the next two weeks, but eventually was shut down for good. As was later announced, the team had suspended him over an apparent dispute about his readiness to return. A grievance was later filed on Bailey’s behalf.

While the suspension has since been lifted and head coach Bill Belichick expressed his hope that the 25-year-old would return, his status is very much up in the air.

Bailey’s replacement, meanwhile, struggled. Michael Palardy also ranked near the bottom of the league in 2022, averaging 42.4 and 37.1 gross and net yards, respectively, in his eight games. Additionally, he was unable to take over Bailey’s role as kickoff specialist. That job went to place kicker Nick Folk, but he managed only three touchbacks in 33 attempts. New England also gave up three return touchdowns with Folk in the lineup.