Almost two weeks after their last offseason transactions — acquiring wide receiver DeVante Parker via trade — the New England Patriots are in the news again, albeit in a rather passive way. Long-time special teams ace Brandon King has decided to leave the organization, signing a reported one-year free agency deal with the Indianapolis Colts.
King, 28, originally joined the Patriots as an undrafted rookie in 2015. Spending seven seasons with the team, he appeared in a combined 85 regular season and playoff games and helped bring a pair of championships to New England.
Moving forward, however, he will be wearing a different uniform. What does this mean for the Patriots? Let’s find out.
New England’s special teams operation loses one of its most experienced players
King originally arrived in New England back in 2015, and after starting his career on the team’s practice squad became a core member of its kicking game operation. Between his promotion to the 53-man squad in October of his rookie campaign and his departure, King saw action in 73 regular season games and 12 playoff contests.
Despite missing two full seasons due to injury, he still played 1,629 snaps in the game’s third phase throughout his career. As a result, King was one of the most experienced special teamers on the Patriots’ roster: only four of his teammates — Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty, Justin Bethel, Cody Davis — have more kicking game snaps on their respective résumés.
King needs to be replaced on five kicking game units
Coming off a two-year stint on the sidelines, the Patriots did not ease King back into the mix in 2021. Quite the opposite, actually.
When all was said and done, the veteran had been on the field for 322 of a possible 464 special teams snaps. His 69.4 percent playing time share was the fourth highest on the team, and he accomplished it by seeing action on five units: New England employed him on kickoff and punt coverage, on the two return teams, and as a member of the field goal and extra point blocking squads.
King did not just see the field on a regular basis in those five areas, he also was one of the most productive members of New England’s kick coverage group last season. He ended the campaign with a combined 11 tackles in the game’s third phase; only Cody Davis (15) and Matthew Slater (13) had more.
How the Patriots will replace King remains to be seen — depth linebackers such as Harvey Langi and Jahlani Tavai are potential candidates to help fill the void created by King’s departure. What is certain, though, is that the task will not be an easy one.
The Patriots’ compensatory draft picks formula will likely not be impacted
Every free agency transaction theoretically can impact the NFL’s compensatory draft picks formula. However, for King to qualify he would have to sign a contract averaging at least $2.5 million per year.
While it is theoretically possible — his experience and special teams acumen speak for themselves — it seems unlikely that this will happen. In turn, New England will continue to be projected with two such extra selections for the 2023 draft, per Over the Cap: a third-rounder for losing cornerback J.C. Jackson to the Los Angeles Chargers, and a sixth-rounder as a result of guard Ted Karras signing with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Another inspirational story has left the building
The Patriots have lost some of the most unique individual stories you will ever find in the NFL. From cancer survivor Brandon Bolden, to Division II defensive back turned All-Pro punt returner Gunner Olszewski, to German-born participant of the International Pathway Program Jakob Johnson.
King fits that mold as well. A former undrafted free agent, who won two Super Bowls before missing back-to-back seasons due to injury, his story is an inspirational tale of perseverance — one that earned him the Patriots’ 2021 Ed Block Courage Award.
The list of Super Bowl winners on New England’s roster is getting smaller
As noted above, King helped the Patriots win a pair of Super Bowls: he was on the roster in both 2016 and 2018, playing his usual core role on special teams. With him now gone, only 14 players remain that have won a championship while in New England:
- WR Matthew Slater (XLIX, LI, LIII)
- S Devin McCourty (XLIX, LI, LIII)
- RB James White (XLIX, LI, LIII)
- CB Malcolm Butler (XLIX, LI)
- C David Andrews (LI, LIII)
- CB Jonathan Jones (LI, LIII)
- LS Joe Cardona (LI, LIII)
- QB Brian Hoyer (LIII)
- DT Lawrence Guy (LIII)
- DL Deatrich Wise Jr. (LIII)
- OT Isaiah Wynn (LIII)
- OT Trent Brown (LIII)
- LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (LIII)
- OL James Ferentz (LIII)
Two other players — cornerback Jalen Mills and wide receiver Nelson Agholor — won a Super Bowl against New England: they were part of the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles. Furthermore, James Ferentz also won a championship ring while playing with the 2015 Denver Broncos.