FOXBORO, Mass. — New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski's four-year contract extension came out of nowhere this week.
His negotiations with the Patriots flew completely under the radar, but when the details surfaced, he became one of the highest-paid specialists in the NFL. Gostkowski was more than happy to keep a low profile during an era when contract disputes turn uglier than an episode of the Jerry Springer Show.
That’s just how a kicker likes it.
"Yeah, I like to lay as low as possible," Gostkowski said. "The least my name is called, [that means] I'm probably doing my job pretty well. Unless you kick a game-winner or something, you're probably going to be out of the headlines. If I show up, have good kickoffs and make the majority of my kicks, then I'm going to lay pretty low, and that’s how I like to do be."
Gostkowski's four-year extension is worth roughly $14 million, with about $5 million guaranteed. He'll make base salaries of $1.7 million in 2011, $2.1 million in 2012, $2.5 million in 2013 and $2.9 million in 2014.
Gostkowski, like Patriots left guard Logan Mankins, was supposed to be an unrestricted free agent after the 2009 season. However, due to the last league year of the current collective-bargaining agreement, rules dictated that each player would become a restricted free agent.
Gostkowski, very much unlike Mankins, signed his 2010 tender and will make $1.79 million this season. It was a sign of good faith, and the Patriots didn’t take long to reward one of the league's most consistent kickers since 2006.
"The rules were the rules for this year," Gostkowski said. "You just decide to live by them. I don’t think there are too many kickers who have ever held out, and I didn’t want to be one of the guys [to set that precedent]. Even when I signed the tender, I was very appreciative of the tender that I got and very appreciative of the opportunity to work to try to get a new deal. My patience worked out. Now, hopefully I can repay them by playing well."
Despite the uncertainty of his contract status, Gostkowski never made a peep.
"You just never know what's going to happen," Gostkowski said. "I just tried to do my part and show up, get ready for the season the only way I know how. The patience paid off. Last year, I thought maybe I'd get one, and you wait around and you just never know. You've just got to do your job, do good and show the coaches that you can be consistent. That’s pretty much what I did."
Gostkowski has already received congratulatory messages from kickers around the league, and he said his first order of business would be to buy something for his wife. From there, Gostkowski said he's going to maintain business as usual.
Since entering the league in 2006, Gostkowski is tied for sixth with 103 made field goals and fifth in field-goal percentage (85.3) among kickers with at least 120 attempts. He is also second with 513 points scored over that span.
Gostkowski had a good training camp, and he's made both of his preseason field-goal attempts and all 12 extra-point tries. And like always, he has displayed a strong leg on kickoffs. Despite the extra cash, Gostkowski has remained as even-keeled as ever.
"The job's not over just because you get [the new contract]," Gostkowski said. "It doesn’t mean it's time to step back. It's almost motivation to work harder and get better. It's something that doesn’t have to be in the back of your mind every time you go out there to practice. It is gratifying. Me and my family and everybody are very grateful to the Krafts and Coach [Bill] Belichick and everybody for the opportunity to be here for a couple more years. I love being a Patriot and didn’t really want to go anywhere else."
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