Staying with the New England Patriots on a new two-year contract, Nick Folk will be able to continue a pro football career that has been a rollercoaster at times.
Entering the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2007, he found immediate success and was voted to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Folk went on to appear in 47 games for the Cowboys, but was let go in 2009 after what was a disappointing third season.
He subsequently joined the New York Jets and returned to form: Folk appeared in 107 contests as a Jet, proving himself as one of the more reliable kickers in the league. However, he was unable to continue his high level of play after leaving New York to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2017.
Folk missed three field goals in a five-point loss to the Patriots, and was later sent to injured reserve. He was released after his lone season as a Buccaneer and spent 2018 out of football. While he received an opportunity to kick in the short-lived AAF in 2019, his career appeared to fizzle out.
Enter the Patriots.
New England picked Folk up during the 2019 season, after having lost long-time place kicker Stephen Gostkowski to a hip injury and releasing his replacement, Mike Nugent, after a string of bad performances. Expectations were not necessarily high for Folk as a de facto third-string option, but the veteran made sure not to waste the opportunity that presented itself when the Patriots came calling.
Since first joining the club in October 2019, he has been one of the better kickers in all of football. Just last year, Folk was successful on 36 of his 39 field goal attempts for a rate of 92.3 percent — the second best of his career after his 2020 season with the Patriots.
Folk has turned his career around in spectacular fashion. How has he been able to do that? On Thursday, the 37-year-old tried to explain.
“A lot of guys get better as they get older, they figure some things out. I had some time off there so I got to look down, figure out what I need to do,” Folk said during a media conference call. “And then, obviously, I have a great relationship with Jake and Joe — they do a great job day-in and day-out, whatever we need to do to get right for each game, for each week, each practice. That’s always a big positive to have some continuity there. That’s a real big piece of it.
“And I think another big part is having the faith from the coaching staff that you’re going to do what you need to do. It’s all kind of culminated in here, in New England, and I’m enjoying every second of it.”
Despite already being on the back nine of his career, Folk has shown no signs of slowing down. The Patriots apparently agree with this assessment, and decided to bring him back before the official start of unrestricted free agency.
Folk signed a two-year, $5 million pact with the team last week that includes $2.2 million in guarantees. Needless to say that New England has shown plenty of confidence in its kicker, even with his 38th birthday coming up during the regular season.
“We had been talking to them the whole time,” Folk said about his free agency experience.
“I had talked with Cam [Achord] and with Bill [Belichick] a little bit and then my agent worked with the back guys there. We knew we wanted to go back and we made sure we exhausted all options at that point. And then once that happened, it was back to the Patriots and we’re excited for it. My kids are super excited. They’re ready to come back up to the northeast, come to a couple games, and watch us win some more.”
The Patriots have won just half of their games since Folk came aboard, but he has had a hand — or, more precisely, leg — in quite a few of their 21 victories since late October 2019. He kicked a pair of game-winners from beyond 50 yards during the 2020 season, and also was crucial to their wins in Houston and Buffalo last year.
Folk has not been perfect, but he did his job on a high level far more often than not. The rollercoaster has therefore been going up ever since he first joined the Patriots.
And as Folk’s new deal shows, they are counting on it to continue doing just that.