Matthew Slater entered the 2022 offseason in need of a new contract, and with a pretty simple plan in mind: New England or bust.
After having spent the first 14 years of his career as a member of the Patriots, the long-time captain and core special teamer was not willing to put on a different uniform. He eventually ended up re-signing with the Patriots on a one-year, $2.62 million contract.
On Thursday, Slater explained his mindset behind returning to New England for a 15th seasons.
“I wasn’t going to go anywhere else,” he said on a media conference call. “Not that my services would have been sought-after anywhere else anyways — Who knows? — but I certainly appreciate the conversations that I had with Coach [Bill Belichick] and where he saw this going, and I’m happy it worked out.”
Slater originally joined the Patriots as a fifth-round selection in the 2018 draft, and developed into one of the central figures of New England’s second-era dynasty. He appeared in 206 regular season and 25 playoff contests for the club over his first 14 seasons, and was named to 10 Pro Bowls as well as five All-Pro teams.
Slater was furthermore voted a captain each year since 2011. Three of those seasons ended with him earning a Super Bowl ring. Now, the veteran will get another chance to add to what is already a Hall of Fame-caliber résumé.
He will be able to do that because the Patriots and their head coach wanted him back. Negotiations, as per Slater himself, were therefor not overly difficult.
“We’re not negotiating an $80 million contract here,” he said. “It was nice to have a conversation with Bill about where he saw me, where he saw me moving forward, where I saw myself and what that would look like. I appreciate Coach taking the time to sit down with me and discuss that, and I’ve always appreciated Coach for the opportunity that he’s given me to be a part of this football team.
“That’s something that I’ve never taken for granted, and I’ve tried to be a good steward of that. For him to want me back here, it really means a lot to me. For me to have a chance to play 15 years in this place — I never once thought I’d have an opportunity to do that. I was just trying to squeeze on a practice squad when I got here. It’s been a surreal ride, and thankfully I didn’t lose any more hair — which I don’t have any to lose — during the negotiations.”
Now entering his 15th season, Slater has set himself some simple yet realistic goals. The 36-year-old wants to continue to be a productive member of the Patriots roster and contribute to the team both on the field and in the locker room.
“I know the things that I need to do physically. I know that process is going to be a little different, probably, than it looked 10 years ago. But I don’t think Coach is in the business of keeping around guys just to have a guy to say, ‘Rah-rah! Siss-boom-bah!,’” he said.
“When the time comes, I think he wants to do the things that I’ve always done over the course of my career, both on the field and off the field, and hopefully I hold up my end of the bargain.”