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NFL free agency 2023: What re-signing long snapper Joe Cardona means for the Patriots

The veteran is reportedly staying put on a new four-year contract.

NFL: New York Giants at New England Patriots Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots have locked up another member of their free agency class. Long snapper Joe Cardona, whose previous contract with the team had expired on Wednesday, will remain in New England on a new four-year contract.

Let’s quickly analyze what this means for the Patriots.

New England now has three specialists under contract. The Patriots entered the offseason with three members of their kicking game operation signed for 2023. That number decreased to two when punter Jake Bailey was released last week.

With Cardona now re-signed, New England is back at three specialists under contract: the 30-year-old himself as well as fellow long snapper Tucker Addington and kicker Nick Folk. Another punter, Michael Palardy, remains unsigned for now, but his return is not a given even after Bailey’s departure.

Cardona brings stability to a position group in flux. Bailey might not remain the only member of the group to get the axe this offseason; Nick Folk is also not guaranteed his spot on the team coming off a shaky second half of the 2022 season. Regardless of what happens at the punter and kicker spot, however, the Patriots know they have at least one of the three positions in safe hands.

Cardona does indeed bring plenty of stability and experience to the group. A fifth-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2015, he has appeared in a combined 140 regular season and playoff games over the course of his eight-year career. He also has experienced several personnel changes around him while still continuing to play at a high level.

New England is apparently optimistic about his recovery. Cardona ended the 2022 season on injured reserve because of a torn tendon in his foot. There was little doubt that he would be good to go for the 2023 season, however, and the Patriots re-signing him this quickly in the process is further confirmation of that.

The Patriots keep one of their most respected locker room voices. Cardona’s value to the Patriots does not end with his ability to snap the football on field goals, extra points and punts. He also is one of the team leaders, even without carrying the official “captain” title (so far).

Cardona’s presence in such a leadership role will be important both this season and beyond. Not only might the team experience further change in the kicking game operation, it also recently lost long-time starting safety Devin McCourty to retirement — with Matthew Slater likely not too far behind even after announcing his return for 2023.

Having other veterans around to help fill the void created by McCourty’s departure, and Slater’s eventual retirement as well, will be crucial.

Cardona is now the first Patriot signed through 2026. With the Patriots giving him a four-year deal, Cardona officially remains under contract through the 2026 season — making him the first player on the team signed that far into the future. The members of the 2023 draft class on their own four-year contracts will join him relatively soon, but for now he stands alone.