With their Week Ten matchup with the Cleveland Browns fast approaching, the New England Patriots continue to do their due diligence when it comes to seeking any and all ways to improve their roster.
In what would come as little surprise, the Patriots hosted three free agents for workouts at Gillette Stadium Thursday. However, it may be a bit eye opening to learn that all three are punters; Corliss Waitman, Sterling Hofrichter and Nolan Cooney.
With two spots currently available on the Patriots practice squad, it was anticipated that the Pats might be looking to fill at least one of those spots with a running back. Both Damien Harris and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson have been sidelined from practice, as they remain in concussion protocol. Should the pair of rushers be unable to suit up for Sunday’s game, New England will have only two healthy running backs in uniform, Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor. The Pats currently do not have a dedicated runner on their practice squad. Yet, the Patriots have yet to host a running back for a workout.
Still, there may be a valid reason for the Patriots keeping their options open at the punter position. Though the Patriots employ one of the best punters in the NFL, in All-Pro Jake Bailey, the Stanford product has been a recent addition to the Patriots injury report with a right knee. Should New England find the need for additional help in this area, it may be from one of their Thursday visitors.
Waitman joined the league in 2020 as an undrafted rookie free agent by signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He spent 2021 training camp with the Las Vegas Raiders. He appeared in 38 games during his collegiate career at South Alabama. Waitman handled kickoff and holding duties, in addition to punting. He was a first-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection as a junior after averaging 45.24 yards per punt to set the school record. During his tenure with the South Alabama Jaguars, Waitman booted 58 punts which were downed inside the 20-yard line.
Hofrichter was the seventh round choice of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2020 NFL Draft. He appeared in every game as a rookie, compiling 20 kickoffs and times and 56 punts for an average of 42.5 yards per boot. Hofrichter reverted to Atlanta’s injured reserve in August before reaching a settlement. The 24-year-old was just as durable in college. At Syracuse, he played in all 49 of his games, finishing first in all-time punting yardage for the Orange.
Cooney signed with the New Orleans Saints as a rookie free agent in May. The East Greenwich, Rhode Island native was waived by the team in August. Cooney spent five years at Syracuse, also acting as the holder in 2018 and 2019 before earning third-team All-ACC honors as the top punter in 2020. The recipient of the ACC’s Brian Piccolo Award compiled 74 puntsfor a 44.8-yard average last fall. Cooney had 24 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.