Their wild card playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills might have been the last game in a New England Patriots uniform for a number of players. Among them is long-time team captain and special teams ace, Matthew Slater.
Not only is Slater headed for unrestricted free agency in March, the veteran is also on the back-nine of his career. He will turn 37 in early September and has amassed a total of 234 games during his 14 seasons in the NFL.
Immediately after New England’s 47-17 defeat in Buffalo, Slater was asked about his outlook. He was not willing to make any definitive statements.
“I certainly don’t want to disrespect the team and what we just went through and talk about my personal situation” he said.
“Obviously, I’m closer to the end, we all know that. I’ll pray about it and make a final decision, and have some conversations. But tonight I just want to make sure that I express gratitude to the people that I owe it to and take time to be reflective and thankful, not only for the experience this year but throughout the entirety of my career.”
A fifth-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2008, Slater saw only limited action at his listed position of wide receiver since entering the league out of UCLA. However, he carved out a role as arguably the best kick coverage player in NFL history and also turned into one of the pillars of New England’s Dynasty 2.0 both on and off the field.
The 11-time team captain has helped bring three Vince Lombardi Trophies to New England, earning 10 Pro Bowl and five All-Pro nominations along the way. His illustrious career also includes the prestigious Bart Starr Award and a spot on the Patriots’ Team of the 2010s.
If any players has earned his right to go out on his own terms, it is Slater. The longest-tenured player on the Patriots’ roster is not expected to make a quick decision about his future, though.
He said so himself when facing the same questions last offseason.
“Coach always says you don’t want to make any decisions right after the season, the day after the season, whether to play or not to play,” Slater said in January 2021. “So, I think I’m just going to be praying about it and see how that goes moving forward.”