The New England Patriots came up just short of their ultimate goal in 2017 as the team lost Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles. In order to get back onto the top of the NFL mountain, the team – on and off the field personnel – will have to quickly turn the page to get into a position to field the best possible team in 2018; one that will be able to once again compete for the world championship.
A big part of creating such a team is mastering the upcoming free agency. And if judged by the list of free agents to be, New England's front office will be busy over the next few weeks. Also over the next few days, we will take a look at those free agents to find out who might or might not get re-signed; and who should be a part of the 2018 Patriots. Today, we'll continue the series with special teams standout Matthew Slater.
#18 WR Matthew Slater
2018 opening day age: 33
2017 playing time: 12 games (9 regular season + 3 playoffs); 1.3% offensive snaps, 33.9% special teams snaps
2017 statistics: 9 special teams tackles
2017 cap number: $1.644 million
2017 was a tricky year for special teams standout Matthew Slater. While he finished tied for third on the Patriots with nine special teams tackles and was once again voted to the Pro Bowl, the team captain was also forced to miss multiple games due to injuries – the second year in a row this happened. Overall, he appeared in only nine of 16 regular season games before getting healthy again for the playoffs.
When Slater was on the field, though, he was his usual productive self. Playing more than half of New England's kicking game snaps during his 12 in-game appearances, the 32-year old was a core member of all four coverage units as either a gunner on defense – often requiring double teams – or a wedge blocker on offense. And despite the hamstring issues that plagued him, he was a key contributor to plays being made.
Due to his combination of performance and leadership, Slater will certainly be ranked highly on New England's list of free agency priorities. And despite turning 33 at the start of next season and dealing with injuries over the past two years, he will get re-signed by the team – anything else would be a surprise of “Malcolm Butler sitting out the Super Bowl”-proportions – to a contract likely to be similarly structured like the one he signed in 2014.
Projection: Slater re-signs with the Patriots on a two-year contract worth a total of around $3.8 to $4.5 million.