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Patriots 2023 roster breakdown: Nick Folk’s future is very much in doubt

Our offseason series continues with an in-depth look at the 15-year kicker.

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New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

With the NFL free agency and draft both in the rear-view mirror, and the second phase of voluntary offseason workouts underway, the New England Patriots are officially “on to 2023.”

At the moment, the Patriots have a full 90-man roster. Only 53 of those players will be able to survive roster cutdowns and ultimately make the active team, with others competing for practice squad spots. Over the course of spring and summer, just like we have in years past, we will take an in-depth look at the men fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping New England rebound from a disappointing 2022 season.

Today, the series continues with 15-year kicker Nick Folk

Hard facts

Name: Nick Folk

Position: Place kicker/Kickoff specialist

Opening day age: 38 (11/5/1984)

Size: 6’1”, 222 lbs

Jersey number: 6

Contract status: Under contract through 2023 (2024 UFA)


After serving as both a place kicker and a punter during his time at the University of Arizona, Folk entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2007. Finding immediate success at the pro level, the rookie was voted to the Pro Bowl in his first year and went on to appear in 47 games for the team before being let go again following a disappointing 2009 season.

However, his release did open the door for him to join the New York Jets with whom he spent a combined six years. Folk played a total of 107 regular season and playoff games for the Jets, and with the exception of a stint on injured reserve in 2015 proved himself a reliable kicker by making 82 percent of his field goal attempts in green and white. The veteran went on to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2017, but ended his season prematurely due to injury.

After spending 2018 out of football and parts of 2019 in the short-lived AAF, the Patriots picked him up as a free agent during that year’s season and later re-signed him twice. In total, Folk has appeared in a combined 59 games for the Patriots so far. Proving himself a reliable presence at the kicker spot, he has made 90.8 percent of his field goals and 91.6 percent of his point-after tries. He also was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week on four occasions, including once in 2022.

2022 review

Stats: 17 games | 105 special teams snaps (23.0%) | 37 field goal attempts, 32 field goals (86.5%) | 35 extra point attempts, 32 extra points (91.4%) | 33 kickoffs, 3 touchbacks, 3 return TDs | 1 onside kick

Season recap: Folk was scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency in 2022, but the Patriots made sure to retain their reliable kicker to a two-year, $5 million contract extension before the market was officially set to open. The structure of that deal plus the fact that former undrafted rookie Quinn Nordin was the only competition on the roster, all but guaranteed that the veteran would make the 53-man team.

He did indeed, and went on to appear in all 17 of the Patriots’ games. Folk did have some very good moments along the way, but also showed some inconsistency.

On the positive side was him setting a new NFL record for most consecutive field goals under 50 yards. Folk broke the previous record of 56 in Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens, and extended the streak all the way to 64 until a miss against the Cleveland Browns in Week 6. He also was named AFC Special Teams Player of Week 8 after making five field goals and a point-after in a win over the New York Jets.

All in all, he ended the year going 32-of-37 on field goal attempts (86.5%) and 32-of-35 on extra points (91.4%) for a combined success rate of 88.9 percent — the 21st-highest such number in the league.

One reason for this below-average ranking is that Folk appeared to run out of gas a bit down the stretch. After making a combined 95.1 percent of his kicks before New England’s bye in Week 10, he split the uprights on only 80.6 percent of attempts over the final eight games of the season.

What is the reason behind his decreased efficiency over the second half of the year? It is hard to pin-point one particular factor, as it appears several might have contributed — ranging from Folk’s age, to conditions getting tougher late November through early January, to the changing personnel around him, to his increased responsibilities working on kickoffs after punter/kickoff specialist Jake Bailey was sent to injured reserve.

Fact is, only one of Folk’s 33 kickoffs came before the bye. Afterwards, he averaged four kickoffs per game, and the results were not necessarily pretty: not only did his field goal and extra point success rate plummet, he also registered just three touchbacks and allowed opposing returners to average 29.2 yards per runback and score three touchdowns — including two in a must-win game against the Buffalo Bills in Week 18.

Folk’s 2022 season can therefore be seen as a tale of two halves. The first one looked pretty good, but the second was a struggle at times.

2023 preview

What will be his role? As he has done ever since the start of his football career, and in his last four seasons with the Patriots, Folk will be asked to do one thing in 2023: kick the football. His focus will primarily lie on field goals and extra points, but as he has shown in the past he also might have to chip in as a kickoff specialist on occasion.

What is his growth potential? At this stage in his career, Folk’s growth potential is fairly limited. Quite the opposite actually: he is on the back-nine and might be having a harder time maintaining his peak level throughout an entire season. 2022 might have been a sign of that, even though factors beyond his control — as mentioned above — also likely played a part in his late drop-off. That said, more stability around him certainly would not be a bad thing and might indeed help him become more consistent again.

Does he have positional versatility? Folk will primarily focus on field goals and extra points but theoretically could also fill other spots on the team. As noted above, he was pushed into kickoff duty in 2022, kicking the ball off 33 times. Additionally, he served as a punter in college — finishing his career with 96 punts for an average of 44.2 yards — even though his NFL potential and experience in that area is rather limited.

What is his salary cap situation? As part of the two-year, $5 million contract extension he signed with the Patriots last offseason, Folk will count $2.79 million against the team’s salary cap in 2023. Only a relatively small part of that sum is guaranteed, however: only his $585,000 signing bonus proration would remain on the team’s books as dead cap in case of a release; his $1.69 million base salary and $510,000 worth of roster bonuses would not.

How safe is his roster spot? Folk has been a surprisingly solid contributor to the Patriots since his arrival in 2019, but the end of the journey appears to be near. The team, after all, invested a fourth-round pick in Maryland kicker Chad Ryland in this year’s draft — essentially guaranteeing that the rookie will be on the roster this fall. With New England unlikely to carry more than one place kicker on its 53-man squad come this fall, Folk’s best bet of sticking around appears to be via the practice squad.

One-sentence projection: The Patriots will release Nick Folk in favor of Chad Ryland ahead of the roster cutdown deadline, but bring him back through their practice squad to serve as depth and a mentor for the rookie.