When the Buffalo Bills spent a sixth-round draft choice on punter Matt Araiza in the 2022 NFL Draft, it was widely assumed that veteran Matt Haack would lose his job to the San Diego State product. Just four months after that selection was made, that exact scenario played out, with Haack being released on August 22.
In the week since he was released, Haack signed with the Indianapolis Colts, and the world learned that Araiza has been accused of a major crime while a member of the San Diego State football team. Araiza did not play in Buffalo’s preseason finale, leading to reserve quarterback Matt Barkley serving as the team’s punter. While no decision has been made about Araiza’s roster spot at this time, it’s quite likely that the Bills will choose to release the rookie sooner rather than later.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of available punters according to Spotrac. The full list is here, but we’ve narrowed the focus on a few likelier candidates.
This is the one that makes the most sense, as Palardy has two things going for him: first, he’s left-footed, which seems to be the clear preference in punters for Buffalo. Corey Bojorquez, Haack, and Araiza all kick with their left foot, and each of them won a roster spot in the last few seasons. Palardy also has connections to Buffalo’s brain trust, as he was with the Carolina Panthers from 2016-2020, meaning both head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane were there for the start of Palardy’s Panthers tenure. He spent the 2021 season punting for the Miami Dolphins, where he averaged 44.7 yards per punt with a net average of 40.1 yards per punt. While both of those averages were middling, they were significantly better than Haack’s output last season.
The veteran, who turned 40 in May, is also left-footed, so I wouldn’t sleep on him being the acquisition. However, he had a far worse year than Palardy did last season, averaging just 38.3 net yards per punt with a gross average of 44.5 yards per punt. That seems pretty close, but looking deeper, Palardy has the advantage in a few key areas. First, Colquitt hit just 13 of his 48 punts (27%) inside the 20-yard line. Palardy placed 31 of his 78 punts (40%) inside the 20. Palardy also tied for the league lead in punts that ended in a fair catch with 26, whereas Colquitt had just ten such punts. This indicates that Palardy’s hang time is better. While both players would be a good option, Palardy is the superior choice.
The 31-year-old Berry punts with his right foot, but his numbers last year were at least middle-of-the-pack. On 78 punts for the Minnesota Vikings, he averaged 46.5 yards per kick and hit 26 punts inside the 20-yard line (33%). His net average was solid (40.8), but he had just 15 of his punts fair caught (19%). On the plus side, just three of his punts went for touchbacks.
The former Los Angeles Chargers punter is right-footed, but among the current crop of free agents, he’s one of only a handful who punted enough to qualify for the league leaderboard last year. While he may have qualified, his output was putrid overall—he was dead last in net average, tying with our former punter Haack at 37.6 net yards per punt. His gross average was much higher than Haack’s at 45.5 yards per punt, but that lack of hang time cost him, as he allowed well over ten yards per punt return (323 yards on just 29 returned punts). Also, just five of his 46 punts ended in a fair catch (11%).
A Syracuse grad, Cooney was with the Arizona Cardinals for the preseason in 2021. He punted five times for a net average of just 38.8 yards per punt. His gross average was better, as he averaged 44 yards per punt. All five of his punts were returned for a total of 26 yards, and one of those five punts pinned his opponent inside the 20-yard line. As a senior with the Orange, Cooney punted 74 times for an average of 44.8 yards per punt. He his 25 of his punts for over 50 yards, had 24 of those punts keep his opponent inside the 20, and 22 of them ended with a fair catch. Just three of his punts resulted in touchbacks. Cooney is a right-footed punter.
As Syracuse’s punter prior to Cooney, Hofrichter was the primary punter for all four of his collegiate seasons. He averaged 43.2 yards per punt over those four years, with 112 of his 270 punts ending in a fair catch (41%). He also pinned his opponent inside the 20 on 99 of those punts, with 72 going for over 50 yards. He was with the Atlanta Falcons for the 2020 season, punting 56 times for a gross average of 42.5 and a net average of 39.3 yards per punt. Seventeen of his punts pinned his opponent inside the 20, nineteen ended in a fair catch, and opposing punt returners gained just 142 yards on 26 punt returns. He punted in two games last year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and while his yardage stats don’t look good (37.8 gross, 34.2 net), he kept the opponent inside the 20 on three of those punts, and four of them ended in a fair catch. Hofrichter is a right-footed punter.
While he isn’t listed as an available free agent, the Hamburg, NY native has posted multiple videos to Twitter of his recent workouts. He last punted in the NFL regular season in 2016 with the Green Bay Packers. At 33 years old, Schum has bounced around multiple leagues and teams, and he had to fight to walk on at the University at Buffalo after beginning his college career with the Buffalo State Bengals in 2007. He’s been rostered by the Cleveland Browns (2013), the New York Jets (2014 & 2015), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014, twice, and then again in 2015), the Green Bay Packers (2016), and the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL (2020). Over two professional seasons where he punted in the regular season (2015 with the Buccaneers and 2016 with the Packers), Schum averaged 42.8 yards per punt with a net average of 38.5 yards per punt. He hit 34 of his 112 career punts inside the 20-yard line (30%). He also kicks with his right foot.