The New England Patriots entered the 2018 offseason with some core players about to hit unrestricted free agency. Among them was special teams ace and team captain Matthew Slater, who entered the open market last week. Now, the veteran – a few days after taking a visit with the Pittsburgh Steelers – is back in New England, according to ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss:
Special teams captain Matthew Slater is returning to the Patriots on a two-year deal, per source.
Slater entered free agency coming off a difficult 2017 season. 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 certainly ranked highly on New England’s list of free agency priorities – despite the early inactivity on the two sides' part. And despite turning 33 at the start of next season and dealing with injuries over the past two years, Slater will return.