Patriots release punter Jake Bailey seven months after extension

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In a span of seven months, the New England Patriots went from signing punter Jake Bailey to a four-year, $13.5 million contract extension, to suspending him and now ultimately releasing him.

The team announced the release of Bailey, who previously filed a grievance against the Patriots regarding the suspension, on Friday.

The Patriots selected Bailey in the fifth round of the 2019 draft and appeared to have the position solidified as Bailey established himself as a first-team All-Pro in 2020. The sides agreed to the four-year, $13.5 million extension in August 2022.

But Bailey struggled to find his old form. He was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 19 due to his back, as he was enduring a season in which he plummeted to the bottom of the NFL rankings with a 41.2-yard average and 35.3-yard net.

The Patriots officially designated Bailey to return from IR on Dec. 21, and he participated in parts of practices the next two weeks. But instead of being activated to the roster, he was placed on the suspended list for the final two games of the season. When a player is placed on the suspended list, it voids future guarantees in his contract, but that can be challenged in arbitration.

Bailey's agent, Doug Hendrickson, issued a statement, saying: "While Jake Bailey was on IR he never missed a single treatment, meeting, or practice. He was hoping to come off IR to play, but Jake was informed he was being suspended these last two games. This comes as a surprise given his full participation during injury reserve. We have filed a grievance to fight this unknown suspension."

In addition to punting, Bailey also handled kickoffs, and his absence was magnified when the team allowed two returns for touchdowns in a season-ending loss to the Buffalo Bills.

In his season-ending video conference, coach Bill Belichick noted Bailey's contributions to the team, saying the thought Bailey had "a future with the team" before adding: "I'm not going to comment on the suspension part of it; there's a grievance filed, so that will all run its course."