By Kevin Saleeba
Three-year veteran punter Zoltan Mesko was cut by the Patriots in a surprising move on Saturday.
Mesko was beat out for the job by rookie Ryan Allen. Allen came to camp touted as the best punter in college football the last two seaons, earning the Ray Guy award for best collegiate punter twice.
Mesko’s performance in the preseason slightly edged out the play of Allen. Mesko was ranked 16th among AFC punters, while Allen was right behind tied for 17th overall.
|Ryan Allen(Kevin Saleeba / Patriots Insider)
Since it was a virtual draw in terms of competition on the field, the Patriots choosing Allen may have been motivated more by money rather than performance. Mesko was set to make $1.3 million, while Allen would cost a third of that price-tag at the punter position.
Mesko was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fifth round (150th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft. He set an NFL rookie record for net punting average in 2010 with a 38.4 net average. It is the highest of any rookie punter since the net punting average was first tracked in 1976, surpassing the 38.0 net-average that Los Angeles Rams’ Dale Hatcher set in 1985.
Mesko's career-long tying 65-yard punt vs. Baltimore (10/17/10) was the longest overtime punt in Patriots history and the longest for the Patriots since Chris Hanson’s 70-yard punt in 2008. He leaves the Patriots as the second all-time leader in punting average with 44.2 yards per punt.
Mesko said he was grateful for the last three years in New England.
“I want to thank the New England Patriots for everything they have done for me,” he said on Twitter after being cut. “I have nothing but love in my heart as I depart this great organization. “I will miss New England … more than anything.”
Kevin Saleeba is the senior editor and columnist to Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinSaleeba