Green Bay Packers cut punter JK Scott, make trade with the Rams for strong-legged Corey Bojorquez
GREEN BAY - Over the past 80 years, the Green Bay Packers have never had a punter lead the NFL in average, but thanks to a trade with the Los Angeles Rams, general manager Brian Gutekunst has a punter who has done exactly that.
On the day teams were required to cut their rosters to 53, Gutekunst gave up on 2018 fifth-round pick JK Scott and replaced him with Corey Bojorquez, the 2020 NFL leader in punting with a 50.8-yard gross average.
Gutekunst sent a sixth-round pick in 2023 to the Rams, who sent Bojorquez and a '23 seventh-round pick back to the Packers in the only deal the Packers GM made on cutdown day. Scott was part of a group of 24 players that the Packers released to get down to the required 53.
The Rams were going to release Bojorquez after re-signing Johnny Hekker, but Gutekunst didn’t want to take the chance that a team with a higher waiver claim spot would grab the fourth-year punter.
Bojorquez has the same $920,000 base salary as Scott, so there won't be much difference in their salary cap charge. Scott's remaining pro-rated signing bonus of $54,389 from his four-year rookie deal will be added to the '22 cap.
It’s easy to see why the Packers coveted Bojorquez. He punted in Buffalo for three seasons, so he knows what it’s like to work in the freezing cold. He has an extremely strong leg, which is a bonus when kicking in the cold and swirling winds inside Lambeau Field.
And he is coming off an eye-popping statistical run dating to last season when he led the league in gross average and ranked fifth in net average with a 44.0 mark. He followed that up with a preseason in which he averaged 51.9 yards gross and net and landed four of his seven attempts inside the 20-yard line.
The Rams were strongly considering keeping Bojorquez. They already had one of the all-time great punters in Hekker but were looking to slash his salary after a mediocre season in ’20. Hekker agreed to alter his contract just before the cuts and the Rams decided to stick with his experience rather than bank on the 24-year-old Bojorquez.
“I think we had two starting punters on our roster, and clearly Corey did an amazing job of maximizing the upside and the interest from teams out there,” Rams coach Sean McVay told reporters Tuesday. “Knowing that, I think everybody would agree that both he and Johnny are two of the best guys doing what they're doing.”
After leading the league in punting, Bojorquez was scheduled to become a restricted free agent and the Bills would have had to make him a one-year, $2.13 million tender offer. Instead, they let Bojorquez test the market and signed Matt Haack, who had punted the previous four years with Miami and was considered more accurate and better at keeping the ball inside the 20-yard line.
Bojorquez averaged 41.9 yards per punt in ’19 and 45.1 in his injury-shortened (shoulder) rookie season.
The New England Patriots initially signed the undrafted free agent out of New Mexico and intended to sign him to their practice squad after waiving him on cutdown day, but the Bills claimed him on waivers and made him their starting punter. He had not punted during the preseason, but the Bills were aware of the strong leg he had shown in practice.
The Packers had put Scott on notice going into this year after three shaky seasons in which he ranked 22nd, 27th and 19th in gross average and 26th, 24th and 28th in net average from 2018-’20. He did himself no favors with an inconsistent preseason in which he averaged 45.1 yards gross and 40.0 yards net.
Opponents returned four of his punts for 41 yards.
In the final preseason game, kicker Mason Crosby had to take over the punting duties because Scott suffered cramps due to dehydration.
New special teams coach Maurice Drayton said that both Scott and long snapper Hunter Bradley “had their backs to the wall” going into this season and so it wasn’t entirely surprising to see Scott get released. The Packers have had four different punters in the last six years and none had provided anything better than average results.
When Scott was drafted, the Packers hoped the 6-6, 208-pounder out of Alabama would provide them with more distance and height than their most recent punters, but he never found consistency with his form and both his directional and long-range kicking suffered.
The Packers will have to hope that Bojorquez can perform as well at holding on place kicks as Scott did. He had become reliable with his holds even when the snap was not on target and Crosby will have to get used to someone new in less than two weeks as the season opener approaches.