Special Master Stephen Burbank ruled in favor of the NFL Players Association and punter Todd Sauerbrun in a Tuesday hearing regarding Sauerbrun’s free-agent status.
The NFL Players Association was arguing that the Patriots’ rights of first refusal should be void.
“Mr. Sauerbrun is now an unrestricted free agent,” said Jeffrey Kessler, who was serving as outside counsel for the NFL Players Association. “We won a decision before a special master that we argued yesterday in Boston.”
Kessler said the Patriots could appeal the decision to the district court in Minneapolis.
When Sauerbrun signed with the Patriots last December, the contract included rights of first refusal to any contract Sauerbrun agreed to with another club in 2007.
On April 3, Sauerbrun agreed to a one-year deal with the Broncos, and the Patriots matched the offer.
But the NFL Players Association argued that the rights of first refusal should be overturned based on the way that clause was filed in the original contract. Richard Berthelsen, the general counsel for the NFL Players Association, previously said a form must be attached to the contract regarding rights of first refusal, and that did not happen.
Sauerbrun previously told the Denver Post he hoped to return to the Broncos and compete for the punting job against Paul Ernster.
As for the Patriots, the team has veteran Josh Miller under contract for 2007, as well as youngsters Danny Baugher and Tom Malone. Miller, the team’s punter the last three years, is coming off shoulder surgery that cut his 2006 short after 10 games.