Patriots Decide On Their Punter

The New England Patriots released rookie punter Aaron Perez on Friday. the decision was likely more influenced as much by veteran Chris Hanson's experience in the system as his punting abilities.

The New England Patriots released punter Aaron Perez Friday the team announced. The undrafted rookie free agent was signed by the team May 4, 2009.

Perez was competing for a roster spot with veteran Chris Hanson. Another competitor, former free agent pickup Tom Malone, was released earlier this offseason.

Perez averaged 45.2 yards per punt his senior season at UCLA, leading the PAC-10 and ranking sixth overall among NCAA punters The 6-foot-2, 231-pound specialist set new school records by recording 286 career punts and 12,220 career punting yards.

What's On Tap

The Patriots head into the 2009 season with just one punter, Chris Hanson, as their guy. Over the past few seasons Hanson has battled numerous players to win (and keep) the starter's role in New England. Signed just after the Patriots released Danny Baugher in August of 2007, Hanson has had to fend of competition from Scott Player, Malone, Mike Dragosavich and Reggie Hodges.

Hanson holds for Gostkowski (Getty)

Though his performance placed him far back in the pack for net avg. in 2007, Hanson had his moments in 2008. His performance against the Buffalo Bills in 40 mph wind gusts was a clear indication that he still possesses a strong leg, and the ability to pin opponents deep inside their own territory.

The issue for the Patriots is addressing Hanson's 2008 gross avg. of 43.7 yards (20th overall) per punt and his net of 36.4 (T 24th overall). The numbers continue to be a concern, lagging in most categories. Hanson did fall just behind the leaders in pinning opponents inside their own 20, managing to do so on 19 of 49 punts (38.8 percent) good enough for a top 10 finish.

The Patriots punting unit rarely saw the field in 2007, punting just 44 times ( a career low over 16 games for Hanson). That was largely influenced by the Patriots' offensive juggernaut, which set records for most touchdowns thrown (50), touchdown receptions for a receiver (23) and points scored (589). Another factor was New England' time of possession (32.31 mins/game) which ranked second in the league behind only the Pittsburgh Steelers (33.29) and their ball-control offense.

The Patriots may find similar success in holding onto the ball in 2009 with Tom Brady back under center. Hanson should hope so. Yet even without Brady, The atriots punted just 49 times last season.

The deciding factor to stick with Hanson may be consistency. New England is breaking in a new long snapper after Lonie Paxton left to join the Broncos. The Patriots signed eight year veteran Nathan Hodel (Cardinals) and then selected Jake Ingram was selected in the sixth round (198th overall) in April's Draft.

The player who wins the starting job of long snapper will have to work with Hanson and fellow specialist, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, to iron out any timing issues. The sooner that decision is made, the better opportunity the team has to avoid any gaffes from the special team's unit on gameday.

The other issue is now that Matt Cassel is gone; Hanson is the only other player with experience holding for Gostkowski.

It appears the decision to keep Hanson was a relatively easy one.

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