Nineteen New England Patriots players are set to hit free agency when the NFL league year opens March 18. As that date approaches, we’re taking a closer look at each one.
Up next: special teams captain Matthew Slater.
2019 STATS: 10 tackles, fumble recovery, blocked punt, touchdown, Pro Bowl selection, first-team All-Pro
LIKELIHOOD OF RETURN: Very high
ANALYSIS: Slater, 34, is coming off one of his most impactful NFL seasons, and it would be shocking if the Patriots didn’t bring him back as a free agent this offseason.
Slater and Justin Bethel were a dangerous duo on Patriots special teams units in the second half of the 2019 season. Bethel is locked up for the 2020 season, while Slater has yet to re-sign.
Slater has expressed his desire to be back in New England next season. He’s coming off of his eighth Pro Bowl selection and sixth All-Pro selection after scoring his first touchdown and blocking the first punt of his career.
It’s not overly surprising that Slater had his most productive year in 2019 since he eschewed wide receiver drills for additional special teams work in training camp. Outside of the kicker position, the Patriots’ special teams unit as a whole was strong last season with Slater leading the way.
Having Slater back in 2020 will be even more important since former Patriots special teams coordinator Joe Judge now is the head coach of the New York Giants. Assistant special teams coach Cam Achord is expected to take over the Patriots’ top role.
A few more solid seasons could further strengthen Slater’s case for a Hall of Fame nod once he retires. Those seasons should come in New England.