Punting around the possibilities

Josh Bidwell was no Craig Hentrich, but he did prove to be a dependable punter during his seasons in Green Bay. Now Bidwell is a Buccaneer, and the Packers' search for a new punter changes from musing into a must-have. Unless Green Bay is willing to let newcomer Travis Dorsch glide through training camp unchallenged, they'll have to sign some competition.<p>

What does the free-agent market have to offer? Several big-name punters were still on the table as of March 14:

Seattle's Tom Rouen, 35, managed a net average of 39.1 yards and a 41.2 gross average last season. Darren Bennett (36.2 net, 41.9 gross) is well known for his strong leg, but is 39 years old and used to kicking in sunny San Diego. Detroit's John Jett is a few years younger at 35, but amassed his numbers (38.0, 39.8) in 2003 with well over half of the Lions' games played indoors. In the rain at Lambeau Field in last season's meeting with the Pack, Jett had 9 punts for 337 yards, a 36.7 net and 37.4 gross average including four placements inside the 20.

An interesting free agent is Ken Walter, who punted for the champion New England Patriots in 2003. Walter, 31, spent the last three seasons in New England, after three seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Even in the New England weather which rivals Lambeau's conditions, Walter has consistently managed decent numbers.

Walter (6-1, 2-7) put two inside the 20 in the Super Bowl, and boomed a 51-yarder in crunch time. He even managed a 37-yard average in blinding snow in the AFC Championship matchup with the Colts. He came up a little short with just a 27-yard net average in the freezing cold playoff game vs. Tennessee. Walter was was named all-rookie by several publications after his first season out of Kent State, which he finished with a 48.0-yard average – second in best in team history. In seven seasons, Walter has never had a punt blocked.

Less-than-marquee punters also on the market include veteran Dan Stryzinski,38, of the Jets; Washington's Bryan Barker, 39;Jacksonville's Mark Royals, 38; and youngsters Bill LaFleur of the 49ers and Toby Gowin of Dallas, both 28. Leo Araguz, 34, who played in only two games with 7 punts last season for Minnesota, did not receive a qualifying offer from the Vikings. Araguz spent his first four NFL seasons in Oakland (1996-99).

Next on PackerReport.com: revisiting Travis Dorsch.

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