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 teamer Nate Ebner.
2019 STATS: eight special teams tackles (seven solo), one blocked punt in 14 games
LIKELIHOOD OF RETURN: Moderately high
ANALYSIS: A pillar of New England’s kicking game since he entered the NFL in 2012, Ebner is set to hit the open market for the third time in his pro career. His last two forays into free agency yielded two-year Patriots contracts worth $2.4 million (in 2016) and $5 million (in 2018).
Ebner was not the tackling machine he had been in years past this season — his tackle total equaled the lowest mark of his career — but his seven solo tallies on special teams tied Matthew Slater and Brandon Bolden for the team lead. Ebner also blocked a punt to spur an unsuccessful late-game comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs and continued to serve as the personal protector on the Patriots’ punt team.
The 31-year-old said last month he hopes to re-sign with the Patriots.
“I mean, that would be the best thing, I think, when you consider my entire career has been here,” Ebner said. “I understand how things go. I?ve got some true friendships here. I understand how things work — that would be great. But right now, it?s out of my hands, so we?ll see what happens and I?ll just take it as it goes. We?ll see.”
Slater also is set to hit free agency. He shares Ebner’s sentiments, telling reporters at the Pro Bowl he does not plan on retiring and wants to stay in New England. The 34-year-old’s last contract, signed in 2018, was a two-year deal worth $5.2 million.