Patriots Former Pro-Bowler Could Be Headed For Release: Report

Getty Bill Belichick

In 2020, New England Patriots punter Jake Bailey made the Pro Bowl in just his second season in the NFL. A lot can change in a year and now there is a chance Bailey could be released ahead of the 2022 season.

A reader asked NESN’s Zack Cox why so many mock draft prognosticators have the Patriots selecting a punter later this month. Cox’s answer had two primary layers.

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Why Jake Bailey Could Be Released

“Because Bailey’s performance dipped a bit in 2021, and thanks to a proven performance escalator he triggered by making the Pro Bowl in 2020, he’s set to earn a salary of nearly $4 million this season — the highest of any NFL punter, Cox wrote, referencing ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “The Patriots can wipe that entire salary off their books by cutting Bailey, leaving behind just $72,245 in dead money from his rookie signing bonus.”

Because the Patriots have multiple holes to fill on their roster, there is a chance they may sacrifice a high-priced punter for a position of greater importance. That said, Bailey’s talents aren’t completely lost on Cox.

“Bailey still is a very good punter, but that’s a lot of money to devote to that position, even for a special teams aficionado like Bill Belichick, Cox reminds us. “If Belichick believes he can get comparable production from a much cheaper rookie — “Punt God” Matt Araiza from San Diego State is this year’s top prospect — that’s something he’d have to consider.”

Landing a rookie punter who will come in much cheaper than the Patriots would have to pay the bonus-eligible Bailey, might be too good of a proposition to pass up.

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The Patriots Still Have a Ton of Holes to Fill on Offense

New England still has work to do on offense. The offensive line seemingly has a gap at guard with the departure of Ted Karras and Shaq Mason via, free-agent exit and trade, respectively. Second-year pro Mike Onwenu can fill one guard spot, but aside from him, the Patriots may only have James Ferentz at the other guard spot, which seems less than ideal considering he started just 3 games in 2021.

There’s also the seemingly everlasting hole at wide receiver. Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne were consistent performers at the position in 2021, but neither is what most teams would consider a No. 1 option.

Perhaps the Patriots have something brewing with Odell Beckham Jr. with whom the team has reportedly had “exploratory talks” with recently. New England’s most likely approach to shoring up the wide receiver spot continues to be through the NFL Draft.

Thankfully for Patriots fans, this class is seemingly stacked with talented pass catchers. Alabama’s Jameson Williams, Arkansas’ Treylon Burks, Ohio State’s Chris Olave and others could be on the board when the Patriots are scheduled to pick at No. 21.

New England could go with volume rather than trying to hit a home run with one first-round selection. Most NFL mock draft prognosticators have the Patriots trading out of the first round to stockpile picks.

Likewise, many experts see this as a draft where the Patriots will select more than one receiver. It seems safe to say, New England cannot afford to repeat what happened in 2019 when they missed on future stars like DK Metcalf, Deebo Samuels and AJ Brown.

The Patriots wound up with N’Keal Harry and he has been the most disappointing receiver selected in that draft. Perhaps drafting two or three will raise New England’s chances of finding a pass-catcher who actually clicks.


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