FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski has played 13 NFL seasons. In 2018, he was the 48th oldest player in the league. Yet, he hit free agency for the first time in his career this offseason.
“I had no idea what to expect,” Gostkowski said Tuesday at Gillette Stadium.
After nearly a month on the open market, Gostkowski elected to return to the Patriots in early April on a two-year, $8.5 million deal.
“Having a lot of time to sit back and think about what I really wanted really reassured me how much I really did want to be here,” Gostkowski said. “I couldn’t have been happier that it worked out the way it did.”
Gostkowski previously agreed to contract extensions before hitting free agency in 2010 and 2015. There were extenuating circumstances both years. He was franchise tagged prior to his extension in 2015. He was a restricted free agent prior to his extension in 2010.
“It was a weird experience,” Gostkowski said. “Eight, nine years ago, when I don’t have kids and a family and roots here, it’s a completely different ball game. Being able to take my time and think about what I really wanted and go over all of the factors, and there’s so many.
“It’s nice when other teams show interest in you and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, I’d like to try to finish where I started, and that meant a lot to me. It meant a lot to my kids and my family. And we are ecstatic to have two more shots to play for the Patriots.”
Gostkowski went into detail on why “it means a lot” to still be playing for the franchise that drafted him in 2006.
“It’s a very fragile position, and it doesn’t take much to be at the top or the bottom in a position such as mine,” Gostkowski said. “To be able to have a chance to do it on one of the most high-pressure teams in the history of sports and have a chance to continue doing it, I think it would be tough to go somewhere else. The grass might seem greener on the other side, but it’s not always that way.
“I kind of like the challenge of being here — the bad weather, obviously we’ve been getting terrible weather the last couple of weeks. The pressure of big games and all of that stuff and just the opportunity to have a chance to keep playing with a lot of the friends and teammates that I’ve made. To me, that means the world, a lot more than other things that could be offered from other teams.”
If Gostkowski does want to finish his career with the Patriots, then New England might not need a kicker for quite a while. Gostkowski, 35, was asked if he wants to play into his 40s as kickers like Adam Vinatieri, Matt Bryant, Phil Dawson and Sebastian Janikowski have done in recent years.
“I just try to take it year-to-year, honestly,” Gostkowski said. “There’s so many factors that go into how long I can play, and there’s not a lot of guys who do it in their 40s in the northeast, so that’s kind of one of the things you have to keep in mind. But I try to stay focused on the task at hand, and I’m really excited to try to have a good 2019 season. If I start thinking I’m going to play for 10 more years, and then aren’t focused on this year, then that’s doing a disservice to the team.
“If I could, sure, I would. That’s not like one of those crazy goals that I’m setting out there. I never thought I’d play 13 years, and I got here with that kind of attitude. So, I’m just going to keep taking it year-to-year and just try to enjoy the process and try to have fun and the ups and downs of professional football.”
Gostkowski might have a new holder his season if rookie punter Jake Bailey beats out Ryan Allen, who’s been with the Patriots since 2013. Bailey also could take over kickoff duties if he makes the team. Gostkowski said Tuesday he would prefer to continue kicking off.
Thumbnail photo via Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images