FOXBORO – Take a positional battle between two players. Now, let’s say that one of these players receives a new contract that extends his NFL career for (at least) four more seasons.
Wouldn’t that be an end to the competition?
Not exactly. What you have is what is going on between both of the punters on the New England Patriots.
The incumbent veteran Jake Bailey recently inked a new four-year extension that basically locked him up as the Patriots’ starting punter. Usually, that would spell the end for Jake Julien’s tenure, but no, both punters are still rostered. So why is the rookie still here?
For starters, Julien can kick the daylights out of the football. On Monday’s practice alone, he was booming the ball, reaching a top hang time of 4.55 seconds. On last Thursday’s session, he was the only punter to take reps that day and hit a hang time of 4.61 seconds.
With the first preseason matchup approaching on Thursday and Bailey seemingly needing no incentive to play in the game, Julien has a strong chance to improve his stock within the Patriots organization. The 6-1 rookie signed a standard contract for undrafted free agents back in April and he will carry a cap number of $710,000 this season.
The team could easily waive Julien and roll with Bailey for the remainder of the summer, but de facto general manager Bill Belichick is keeping the undrafted free agent around a bit longer. If this does not represent the value the team has on Julien, nothing will.
With roster cutdown day approaching at the end of the third preseason game, it would be shocking for the Patriots to keep both their punters. But if the rookie clears waivers, he would be a strong candidate to return on the practice squad and remain on the roster for the rest of the season.