One year ago, Matthew Slater entered the free agency market before ultimately returning to the New England Patriots on a two-year, $5.2 million contract. That contract, however, was essentially a one-year deal with a team option for the second season — an option the Patriots had until to the start of the 2019 league year to pick up or else the veteran would become an unrestricted free agent for the second year in a row.
This time, New England did not let it happen: the team exercised the $400,000 roster bonus that triggers the second year of Slater’s deal, one that hits the Patriots’ salary cap with $2.9 million. Seeing the reigning world champions do that is no surprise whatsoever. After testing the free agency waters last offseason, the seven-time Pro Bowl selection produced a very good season in 2018 en route to earning his third Super Bowl win.
Overall, Slater appeared in all 19 of New England’s games in 2018 and was on the field for 67.5% of the club’s special teams snaps (second most on the team behind only Nate Ebner). Once again proving himself one of the best gunners in all of football, he finished the season with 14 tackles (also trailing only Ebner) and fielded multiple kicks to give the Patriots’ defense good field position — twice that happened during the club’s playoff run.
With Slater returning, the Patriots keep investing in their kicking game units on the same day that the club reportedly brought back Brandon Bolden. Like Slater, Bolden is playing primarily on special teams and should bring quality and depth to a unit that could very well lose some of its core contributors from last year: Albert McClellan, Ramon Humber and Chris Hogan are all free agents, while kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson already left to join the Chicago Bears.
Keeping Slater around is therefore a no-brainer, despite him turning 34 in September. As he showed last year, however, he can still perform at an elite level.