The New England Patriots lost some considerable talent since the start of the NFL’s legal tampering period preceding free agency on Monday. Now two days into the new league year, it seems as if the exodus will continue: according to a report by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, special teamer Nate Ebner is expected to join the New York Giants — reuniting him with former Patriots kicking game assistant and new Giants head coach Joe Judge.
The former Ohio State walk-on originally joined the league in 2012 as a sixth-round draft pick by the Patriots. While Ebner’s impact on defense remained limited throughout his career since, he made a living as a special teamer in New England: the 31-year-old played on all four kick coverage units and also served as the team’s personal punt protector. As such, he helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls and to consistently field some of the best special teams units in the league.
While a return to the Patriots in free agency therefore seemed like a realistic scenario, Ebner was expected to receive plenty of interest on the open market due to his experience and proven productivity in combination with a championship pedigree. With him now indeed set to leave, New England will have to fill a prominent role: only two of his teammates saw more snaps in the kicking game than Ebner’s 342 last season, and the veteran contributed eight tackles as well as a blocked punt.
That being said, the Patriots do have the in-house depth to help soften the blow of losing the eight-year veteran and one-time Olympian rugby player: Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel and Brandon Bolden are currently forming the core of the kick coverage units, with Brandon King also expected to make his return after missing all of 2019 due to a quad injury suffered last preseason.