The New England Patriots made a tough decision today, but they did save some money by cutting incumbent Zoltan Mesko in favor of UDFA punter Ryan Allen in what was a truly close and intriguing punting battle. Mesko outplayed Allen and was clearly better in the second and third preseason games, but Allen did enough to show that the money saved was worth the slight drop-off in play. Allen clearly looks like a legitimate starting punter in this league, and he was the best punter in college with back-to-back Ray Guy awards to boast. Although he is not as good of a holder as Mesko or as good at generating hang time, he is about as accurate as Mesko and has a significantly better leg. While Mesko is more consistent, that’s largely due to experience. What sealed Allen as the winner in the competition was the fact that the Patriots main goal was to save money, and Mesko’s one-year deal and salary three times greater than Allen’s put him at a disadvantage.
New England Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko (14) makes a punt during the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Zoltan Mesko was a fan favorite among New England Patriots fans, and he will be missed in these parts. I have little doubt that Mesko will be able to secure a starting gig elsewhere, because he is also clearly a starting-caliber punter in this league and only lost his job due to financial reasons. Mesko did an excellent job in the competition, and it will definitely be sad to see him go. However, the fact that Allen looks like a great punter does ease the pain a little bit.
On his Facebook page, Mesko left a very heartfelt message, and it’s one that I have to share with you guys, “First and foremost, I want to thank the New England Patriots for everything they have done for me. I have nothing but love in my heart as I depart this great organization. Mr. Kraft, the coaches, the strength staff, the trainers, the media personnel, the marketing department, the rest of the amazing staff members at Gillette, and especially my teammates…THANK YOU for all that you have given and have done for me. I want to say that I see the silver lining in things now more than ever, and am a true believer that things DO happen for a reason. This goes out to anyone that will ever come across a mere bump in the road; be thankful, be positive, because there’s a deeper purpose of WHY things happen that we may not yet, or may never come to understand. Just believe. I will miss New England, and more than anything, I’ll be missing the smiles on those kids whom I visited and acted like a goofball in front of. It was ALL worth it. God bless. ”
Man, Zoltan Mesko is one classy- and funny- guy, and he was also a darn good punter for the Patriots. I’m sure he’ll also be a darn good punter for the next team that signs him.