NEPD Editor: James Christensen
Rich Eisen might have popularized the phrase “Punters are People”, but it won’t be easy to the word “back-up” to that phrase. Backup specialists – kickers, punters and long snappers – don’t exist.
Often time, extra specialists are brought into camp for faux competition and to keep regulars and punters from being overworked. The case with undrafted free agent punter Ryan Allen is anything but that.
Zoltan Mesko is in all probability set to retain his job as punter for the Patriots. During his three years, he has been a bright spot at a position that has dogged the Patriots for nearly a decade – think Chris Hanson and Ken Walter. He’s a solid holder, fun locker room presence and a hard worker.
With all that in mind, Ryan Allen is going to make it really hard for Bill Belichick to cut him, especially considering the difference in salary. Allen would save the Patriots approximately $300k against the cap this year and give them a cheap option at punter for the next two years, where Allen would make $495k and $585k. Mesko is due to be a free agent after this season.
After watching Allen in practice on Saturday, I pulled a Greg Bedard and started timing the hang time on his punts. On a total of 10 punts that I timed, Allen averaged 4.7 seconds, with only punt under 4.4 seconds of hang time. His accuracy was spot on as well, consistently putting the ball inside the numbers.
The ball absolutely explodes off of Allen’s foot and flies with a tight spiral. He was routinely booming the ball fifty yards. To be fair, Mesko averaged 4.5 seconds of hang time and had a similarly good day punting the ball.
If you watched Allen in college, you wouldn’t be surprised. He is the only player to have won the Ray Guy Award, the Heisman for Punters, twice in a row and led the NCAA in punting average (48.0) as a senior at Louisiana Tech.
I was surprised when he went undrafted and even more so when he signed with New England – a team that I felt had a solid incumbent that would be tough to unseat.
If Allen doesn’t make the team, he will be subject to waivers. While the chances may be slim for undrafted punters, I wouldn’t be shocked if he were claimed by another NFL team.
However, if he does somehow go unclaimed, I’d expect the Patriots to snatch him up for their practice squad as insurance against Mesko leaving as a free agent.