The new NFL year begins Wednesday, March 18, and with it, the advent of 2020's free agent marketplace. Leading up to that first day, we'll examine the landscape from a Patriots perspective, beginning with specialists.
PATRIOTS FREE AGENTS
Nick Folk (K)
Matthew Slater (Coverage)
Nate Ebner (Coverage)
OTHER NOTABLE NFL FREE AGENTS
Kickers: Dan Bailey (Minnesota Vikings), Mason Crosby (Green Bay Packers), Adam Vinatieri (Indianapolis Colts), Greg Zuerlein (L.A. Rams)
Punters: Ryan Allen (Atlanta Falcons), Britton Colquitt (Minnesota Vikings), Lachlan Edwards (New York Jets), Matt Haack (Miami Dolphins)
Long Snappers: Zak DeOssie (New York Giants), J.P. Ladouceur (Dallas Cowboys), Don Muhlbach (Detroit Lions)
Kickers: Folk, Crosby, Bailey
Long Snappers: None
Coverage: Ebner, Slater
In recent seasons, questions have surrounding New England's punting situation. Today, however, Jake Bailey has answered them, after a solid 2019 rookie season which saw him take command of both the punting and kickoff duties for the Patriots. New England is also in reliable hands with long snapper Joe Cardona.
Where the intrigue now resides is at kicker, where veteran Stephen Gostkowski is attempting to come back from left hip surgery that ended his 2019 campaign after only four games. The Patriots then went through a handful of replacements before settling on veteran Nick Folk, who himself had to bounce back from emergency appendectomy surgery on Thanksgiving.
It's entirely plausible that New England could bring both Gostkowski and Folk back to compete for the job, but don't discount the Patriots going after either Crosby or Bailey, two very capable kickers who've spent considerable time in the NFL, to inject further competition to the mix.
Vinatieri's name is also an eyebrow-raising one. At age 47, he likely isn't going to be a factor, but given his history with the Patriots, it's worth monitoring what he decides to do. He, by the way, is coming off season-ending knee surgery.
Slater, the longtime special teams co-captain here in New England, is also contemplating whether or not to continue playing NFL football. He could very well decide to return, as could Ebner, who might also be eying the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, as he did four years ago when the team re-signed him and allowed him to pursue rugby at the Rio Olympics.