As the New England Patriots make their final preparations for the 2023 NFL Draft, the team may be considering using some mid-to-late round capital to select new specialist.
Following the release of 2020 All-Pro punter Jake Bailey, the Patriots have a clear need at the position. As a result, they continue to show interest in Oklahoma’s Michael Turk. In fact, a Patriots Country source has confirmed that New England’s coaching contingent, including special teams coordinator Cam Achord, remain “impressed” by the prowess shown by Turk at the 2023 Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas.
During his first season as a Sooner, he averaged 51.2 yards per punt, while watching eight of his 35 punts go for more than 60 yards. In 2022, he punted 63 times, yielding a 46.8-yard average. In each of his four collegiate years he earned first-team All-conference, while his career-average ranks near the top of all-time FBS punters. Turk can clearly punt for power, having demonstrated some impressive hang time during his recent work at the Shrine Bowl. He also has some NFL pedigree, as the nephew of former NFL punter Matt Turk and long snapper Dan Turk.
While Turk would be considered the front-runner for the starting job, if drafted, he is not the Pats only option. In March, the team signed veteran boot man Corliss Waitman, who played in all 17 games with the Denver Broncos last season. The 27-year-old averaged 46.6 yards (41.4 net yards) per punt across a league-leading 96 boots, 30 of which were downed inside the 20-yard line. He also ranked within the top 10 of the league with an average hang time of 4.37 seconds.
Whether it be Waitman, Turk or another punter-to-be-determined to take the initial snaps in 2023, he will be succeeding Bailey. The Stanford product was released by the team earlier this month. Prior to his placement on season-ending injured reserve due to a back injury, Bailey was struggling to find both power and accuracy. He averaged 35.3 net yards per punt, which was last in the league among qualified punters.
Bailey, who recently signed with the Miami Dolphins, was relieved by veteran punter Michael Palardy. The 30-year-old played in eight games for the Pats, punting 42 times (one of which was blocked) for a net average of 37.1 yards per punt.
In addition to Waitman, the Patriots also employ kicker Nick Folk, and long snapper Joe Cardona — with whom the team agreed on a four-year contract in March. Reserve snapper Tucker Addington is also under contract for 2023.