Extra Points

No. 6 need: Punter

(Sixth in a series on free agency, the Patriots’ needs, and who might be available on the open market)

MARKET ASSESSMENT: Seldom a major market in free agency, as there are only 32 starting jobs in the NFL.

PATS POSITION: With Josh Miller due a roster bonus in March, there is some question as to whether the Patriots will pay it, and that could open a spot on the roster. Miller went on injured reserve with a shoulder injury Nov. 24. He was replaced by Ken Walter for four games, and then Walter went on injured reserve with a knee injury. The Patriots finished up with Todd Sauerbrun.

A look at some of the players who are scheduled for unrestricted free agency:

  • Todd Sauerbrun (New England) — Performed admirably in the playoffs for the Patriots, likely earning himself a job somewhere in 2007. The 34-year-old Sauerbrun punted in five games and displayed the type of strong leg that is important in tough Northeast conditions.
  • Chad Stanley (Houston) — Finished 21st in the NFL with a 36.7 net average. Entering his eighth NFL season, the 31-year-old Stanley has punted in all 16 games in all but one season.
  • Matt Turk (St. Louis) — Punting more than half of the time in a dome, the 38-year-old Turk finished seventh in the NFL with a 38.5 net. Came off a 2005 season in which he didn’t punt in any games.
  • Ken Walter (New England) — Like Turk, the 34-year-old Walter didn’t punt in 2005 before returning to action in 2006. Walter filled in for the Patriots for four games, and added his expertise as a holder.

    EXTRA POINTS: The Patriots also have former practice squad punters Danny Baugher and Tom Malone signed for 2007, and both will punt in NFL Europa. Andy Lee (49ers), Derrick Frost (Redskins), Donnie Jones (Dolphins), Kyle Larson (Bengals) and Mat McBriar (Cowboys) are restricted free agents.

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