Cam Newton wasn’t the only impending free agent the New England Patriots locked up Friday.
The team also agreed to terms on a new three-year, $6 million contract with special teams ace Justin Bethel, according to a report from ESPN’s Mike Reiss.
Jim McBride of The Boston Globe was the first to report Bethel’s new deal.
Since joining the Patriots midway through the 2019 season, Bethel and perennial Pro Bowler Matthew Slater have formed the NFL’s best punt gunner duo. Bethel’s 13 solo special teams tackles in 2020 were tied for second-most in the league, and he also blocked an extra point.
Re-signing Bethel ensures the Patriots will keep at least one-half of that tandem intact. The 35-year-old Slater has yet to announce whether he plans to return for a 14th NFL season.
Cody Davis, the third member of New England’s special teams Big Three, also is an impending free agent.
“We have three of the best cover guys you can find in the NFL with Slate, Cody and Just,” safety Devin McCourty said in December. “They’re tough to block, whether it’s punt team, kickoff.”
“They’re all terrible matchups,” safety Adrian Phillips added. “You don’t want to block any of them. … Having all three of them on the field at the same time, I feel sorry for the other side.”
Bethel, who turns 31 in June, previously starred for the Arizona Cardinals, earning three consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 2013 to 2015. He also spent time with the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens, who released him in October 2019 to avoid losing a compensatory draft pick.
NFL free agency opens next Wednesday.