The history of the New England Patriots is made up of all-time talent.
Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback who ever lived. Rob Gronkowski had the most dominant stretch the NFL has ever seen out of a tight end. Sports Illustrated proclaimed John Hannah the “Greatest Offensive Lineman of All Time” halfway through his playing career. There hasn’t been a group more synonymous with success in New England quite like the specialists, however.
Even when the Boston Patriots were the laughingstock of the AFL, the franchise has seemingly always had an incredible special teamer on its roster. Here are the very best.
5. Stephen Gostkowski (2006-2019)
Stephen Gostkowski walked into New England expected to fill some menacingly large shoes. After winning three Super Bowls across 14 seasons, it’s fair to say that he was successful in doing so.
Gostkowski was drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft, the highest selection of a kicker under Bill Belichick. He stepped in and became the model of consistency for a decade and a half, making 87.4% of his kicks while playing in 233 of 255 possible contests.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-Decade kicker of the 2010s, Gostkowski knocked through 98.3% of his extra point attempts and six game-winning kicks during his tenure with the Patriots. Those incredible numbers earned him four Pro Bowl nods and two All-Pro recognitions.
He also likes to party.
4. Troy Brown (1993-2007)
Yes, we’re counting Troy Brown. How could you not include the greatest return man in franchise history?
Brown made it onto our list of GOAT wide receivers, but we couldn’t help ourselves from wanting to recognize his abilities as a return man. Primarily a punt returner, Brown finished his career with four return touchdowns. His value came from more than scoring, however. The one-time Pro Bowler averaged over 10 yards per return across 15 seasons.
Brown, even when taken off primary return duties when he took on the role of defensive back in 2004 and 2005, was Belichick’s emergency option when he needed a steady pair of hands. There was no one who was trusted more, and did more on special teams than Brown throughout the Patriots’ first dynastic run.
3. Gino Cappelletti (1960-1970)
Gino Cappelletti was so much more than a kicker, but he finds a spot here due to the Patriots’ unbelievable depth of greatness at wide receiver and defensive back.
The original Patriots GOAT, Cappelletti is the all-time leading scorer in AFL history with 1,100 points. Most of them coming as a kicker. The 1964 AFL MVP went to five Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1992 as its second inductee.
2. Adam Vinatieri (1996-2005)
The reason Gostkowski’s career was so impressive is due to the gigantic hole that Adam Vinatieri left when he departed New England in 2005.
There has never been a more clutch kicker in the NFL, with Vinatieri connecting on an NFL-record 17 game-winning kicks with the Patriots. Though he hit an unspectacular 81.9% of his kicks across 10 seasons with New England, Vinatieri never missed the big ones.
1. Matthew Slater (2008-Present)
Matthew Slater isn’t just the greatest special teamer in Patriots history, he’s the greatest special teamer in NFL history.
The model of consistency and excellence, Slater compiled 10 Pro Bowl selections, two All-Pro nods and three Super Bowl rings across his first 15 seasons in New England. The 13-time captain is the unquestioned leader in the Patriots’ locker room and will continue to be as long as he decides to play.
An all-time fan favorite, admiration for Slater stretches across the NFL world.
Honorable Mention: PR Julian Edelman (2009-2020), LS Joe Cardona (2015-Present), P Ryan Allen (2013-2018) and KR Kevin Faulk (1999-2011)