The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with one of the Patriots’ team captains.
Name: Matthew Slater
Position: Wide receiver / special teamer
Jersey number: 18
Opening day age: 33
Size: 6’0, 205 lbs.
2017 review: The 2017 season proved to be a difficult one for special teams captain Matthew Slater, and not just because the Patriots failed to defend their Super Bowl title. During the regular season, the team captain struggled with hamstring issues that limited his availability. The veteran missed a combined seven games due to injury – the second straight season he missed multiple games because of health-related questions.
Overall, Slater played only 27.9% of the Patriots’ special teams snaps during the regular season (126 of 451). When he was on the field, however, Slater was his usual productive self and showed why he is still among the best kicking game players in the NFL – and was also voted to his seventh straight Pro Bowl. Slater registered seven special teams tackles, good enough for sixth-most on the team.
And despite often being doubled at the line of scrimmage, he usually was among the first Patriots players to impact a play. The playoffs were more of the same for Slater: Back at full strength, he appeared in all three of New England’s postseason contests and played 59 of the team’s 89 special teams snaps (66.3%). He also was tied for the team-lead with two kicking game tackles.
And while he failed to earn his third Super Bowl ring, the part-time wide receiver – Slater played a combined 17 offensive snaps in all of 2017 – positioned himself well entering free agency for the first time in his career.
2018 preview: Slater’s free agency experience lasted a week and even included a visit to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ultimately, though, the career-Patriot returned to Foxboro on a two-year, $5.2 million contract that will hit the team’s salary cap with $2.03 million this season. The number is a relatively modest one for a player of Slater’s caliber that is still among the NFL’s best special teamers despite turning 33 on opening day.
As such and despite some recent injury issues, the veteran will again see his fair amount of snaps in the kicking game. He will also still be a center of attention for opponents, which in turn will help free things up for some his colleagues – namely fellow standouts Brandon King, Nate Ebner and, if full recovered from his season ending knee injury, Jonathan Jones.
Of course, Slater’s impact goes far beyond his on-field performances. The son of Hall of Famer Jackie Slater also puts a profound stamp on his team and community off the field. Him being named a team captain each of the past seven seasons is clear evidence of that. 2018 will not be any different; Slater again one of the leaders on the squad.