Vince Wilfork may have gotten all the publicity among Patriots free agents, but a big impact could come from someone nobody is talking about.
Patriots punter Chris Hanson is fresh off one of the worst seasons of his career, and appears to be on his way to kicking the ball somewhere other than New England in 2010, The Boston Globe reports.
The 33-year-old Hanson had a forgettable year in 2009. His net punting average of 34.7 yards per punt was his lowest since 2003 with the Jaguars, and his average distance per punt dipped below 40 yards for the first time since his rookie year in 1999, when he had just four attempts with the Packers.
Hanson may yet be brought back, but the writing on the wall seems to have Bill Belichick spending one of his 12 draft picks on a replacement.
Scout.com noted that the Patriots were one of three teams to schedule a workout with Michigan punter Zoltan Mesko, while the National Football Post reported that Virginia Tech punter Brent Bowden held a private workout for the Pats on Friday.
While many people feel that punters — much like kickers and other specialists — can be picked up off of another team’s scrapheap or signed as an undrafted free agent, Belichick has not been afraid to invest draft picks on specialists in the past. Pro Bowl kicker Stephen Gostkowski was a fourth rounder in 2006, and long snapper Jake Ingram was selected in the sixth round of last year’s draft.
Over the past five years, 11 punters have had their names called during draft weekend. With a bevy of picks at their disposal, the Pats could make it 12 next month.