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Patriots 2023 free agency profile: Michael Palardy is likely headed out the door

The nine-year punter will enter unrestricted free agency later this month.

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Finishing the 2022 season with an 8-9 record and out of the playoffs, the New England Patriots have plenty of work to do to return to postseason contention. One big part of this process will be taking care of their own class of free agents.

Quite a few players are headed for the open market, with a total of 19 players left that were with New England last year in need of a new contract. Among them is punter Michael Palardy, who is set to enter unrestricted free agency on March 15.

Hard facts

Name: Michael Palardy

Position: Punter

Jersey number: 17

Opening day age: 31

Size: 5-foot-11, 200 pounds

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent


What is his experience? A punter/kicker hybrid out of Tennessee, Palardy went undrafted in 2014 and started his NFL career with the then- Oakland Raiders. However, he ended up not seeing any in-game action with the club and, after a year spent between free agency and the Raiders practice squad, left to join the Rams. He did not find any stability in St. Louis either, and moved to the CFL; he was released after the 2015 season and returned south of the border to continue his journeyman career.

Palardy spent 2016 in Carolina, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Atlanta before returning to the Carolina Panthers to finally earn himself some regular playing time. Over the next five seasons, he appeared in 56 regular season and playoff games for the club before his release in 2021. Palardy then joined the Miami Dolphins, adding 17 more games to his résumé and earning one AFC Special Teams Player of the Week trophy. In 2022, he found his way to another AFC East club, joining the Patriots in-season.

What did his 2022 season look like? Palardy’s 2022 season started slowly. After his contract with the Dolphins expired in March, he did not draw a lot of attention in free agency. In fact, he had to wait until late August to finally see some action: the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills brought him in for workouts, but he did not end up signing a contract with either team. The same was true for his September workouts with the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles, meaning that he remained on the open market well into the regular season.

In late October, the Patriots brought him in for a workout and eventually ended up signing him to their practice squad. While initially serving as a backup option behind Jake Bailey, he was promoted to the active roster on Nov. 19 after New England’s featured punter was placed on injured reserve because of a back injury. With Bailey never being activated from the list — a point of contention between team and player — Palardy ended up spending the final eight games of the season on the Patriots’ 53-man squad.

Like Bailey before him, however, Palardy struggled. He finished the season ranked near the bottom of the league with a gross punting gain of 42.4 yards (33rd) and a net of 36.4 yards (34th). Opposing returners gained an average of 14.4 yards against him on 18 returns, while fair-catching 11 of his kicks. Additionally, he had six punts of 50-plus yards and saw one of his kicks — in Week 15 against the Las Vegas Raiders — blocked. As opposed to Bailey, he also did not make any contributions to the kickoff game.

Palardy also served as the Patriots’ holder on field goal and extra point attempts. While there were no obvious slip-ups in this department, one has to wonder whether the change in holder also contributed to Nick Folk’s issues down the line; Palardy did have some problems as a holder during his one-year stint in Miami. For what it is worth, Folk made just 80.6 percent of his kicks with Palardy in the lineup (25 of 31). He had made a combined 95.1 percent of field goals and extra points (39 of 41) when Bailey was still holding.

Free agency preview

What is his contract history? Palardy entered the NFL on a standard three-year rookie contract in 2014, but ended up earning only $6,300 of that original deal. He later signed various low-level deals with the boatload of teams mentioned above, before his first big extension in 2018: Palardy and the Panthers reached an agreement on a three-year, $7.52 million pact that year. He ended up earning only parts of that deal before signing one-year deals in Miami and New England. All in all, Over the Cap estimates Palardy’s career earnings at around $7.8 million.

Which teams might be in the running? Several teams had issues in the punting department in 2022, and therefore might be after an experienced option like Palardy. These clubs include the Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Francisco 49ers.

Why should he be expected back? The Patriots currently have only one punter under contract for 2023, and his status is very much in question: with Jake Bailey having filed a grievance against the team following his late-season suspension, he is not guaranteed back. Palardy would be a relatively cheap replacement option that has plenty of football on his career résumé.

Why should he be expected to leave? One word: performance. The punter position was a liability for New England in 2023, and Palardy did not do anything to change this. His raw numbers cannot be fully taken at face value — several factors contribute to the statistical success of the punt coverage game — but the fact remains: he was not particularly good, and replacing him either in free agency and the draft should not be all too hard.

What is his projected free agency outcome? Regardless of Bailey’s future with the Patriots, Palardy appears to be headed out the door. New England should be able to replace his contributions comparatively easily; upgrading at the spot — either by getting Bailey back on track or finding a new face altogether — should be key. Palardy will likely not be a part of that process.


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