The New England Patriots ended the 2018 season in the best possible way, by defeating the Los Angeles Rams to win Super Bowl 53. In order to stay on top of the NFL mountain, though, the organization will have to quickly turn the page to get itself into a position to create the best possible team for the 2019 season. And a big part of building such a team is mastering the upcoming free agency.
If judged by the list of free agents to be, New England’s front office will be busy over the next few weeks before the new league year officially is kicked off on March 13. Also over the next few weeks, we will take a look at those free agents-to-be to find out who may or may not get re-signed by the Patriots; and who should be a part of the 2019 squad. Today, we’ll continue the series with kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
#3 K Stephen Gostkowski
2019 opening day age: 35
2018 playing time: 19 games (16 regular season + 3 playoffs); 38.7% special teams snaps
2018 regular season statistics: 27 of 32 field goals (84.4%), 49 of 50 extra points (98.0%); 50 of 93 touchbacks (53.8%)
2018 postseason statistics: 5 of 6 field goals (83.3%), 10 of 10 extra points (100%); 6 of 18 touchbacks (33.3%)
2018 cap number: $5.00 million
Stephen Gostkowski had another solid overall season, but one that might get overshadowed by how it ended: in the lowest scoring Super Bowl of all time, a game that ended 13-3 in the Patriots’ favor, the veteran missed the first of his three field goal attempts to keep the game scoreless in the first quarter. The miss did not matter in the grand scheme of things but it still turned Super Bowl 53 into the third straight title game that saw Gostkowski not connect on at least one field goal or extra point try.
His unsuccessful first attempt on the game’s biggest stage was one of six total misses on the year for Gostkowski, who made 84.2% of all his field goal kicks as well as a very good 98.3% of extra points. And while his success rate on point-after tries was among the best in the NFL last season, he did rank only 19th on field goals during the regular season — probably not the ranking you would want from the NFL’s third-highest paid kicker.
Why should he be re-signed? Despite his below average ranking on field goals, Gostkowski is still a generally reliable kicker when looking at his entire body of work including extra points and also kickoffs. Furthermore, as CLNS’ Alex Barth pointed out, the alternatives might not be as attractive as they may sound: kickers entering the league since 2015 — when point after tries were moved back — have a lower success rate on both field goals (83.9% vs 88.6%) and extra point attempts (94.1% vs 97.0%).
Why should he be let go? That all being said, Gostkowski’s recent misses in high-stakes situations combined with the mental impact they may have are certainly a troubling development. Look no further than Bill Belichick pondering going for it on 4th and 1 with 1:16 left in the Super Bowl and his team up seven points instead of attempting a game-icing 41-yard field goal (the kick was later successfully attempted). What does the Patriots’ head coach not trusting his kicker in this situation tell about his confidence level in Gostkowski, a 35-year old that might once again command a hefty price tag?
Projection: Despite some inconsistencies, the Patriots will likely hold onto Gostkowski and try to re-sign the soon-to-be free agent in the upcoming weeks. If no agreement can be reached before March 5, the veteran also appears to be a realistic candidate to receive the franchise tag — something that also happened in 2015. And as was the case back then, expect New England to ultimately sign Gostkowski to a deal; something in the ballpark of three years and $13.0 to $15.0 million.