The new NFL year begins Wednesday, March 17, and with it, the advent of 2021'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
OTHER NOTABLE FREE AGENTS
Kickers: Daniel Carlson (Las Vegas Raiders, RFA), Ryan Succop (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Stephen Gostkowski (Tennessee Titans)
Punters: Corey Bojorquez (Buffalo Bills)
Long Snappers: J.P. Ladouceur (Dallas Cowboys), Don Muhlbach (Detroit Lions)
Coverage: Nate Ebner (New York Giants)
Kickers: Folk, Succop, Carlson
Long Snappers: None
Coverage: Bethel, Davis, Ebner
At age 36, Nick Folk enjoyed one of his most productive NFL seasons in 2020, picking up – or should we say kicking up – where he left off at the end of 2019. Nonetheless, New England kept rookie fifth-round draft choice Justin Rohrwasser on the practice squad all season, then added former 2016 Bucs second-round draft choice Roberto Aguayo to the mix in December.
Aguayo was one of college football's all-time most accurate kickers, but has struggled to find a foothold in the NFL. At age 26, he's certainly still young enough to do so. Yet, if neither he nor Rohrwasser proves up to the challenge, New England could always look to Folk again, or perhaps another established veteran like Succop, who's had a solid year for Tampa Bay. A long-shot might be Carlson, the NFL's leading scorer among kickers in 2020. He's a restricted free agent, however, so, I don't see Vegas letting go of him.
In the punter department, New England has the best in the league, with Jake Bailey having not only earned his first Pro Bowl honor in just his second season, but also First-Team All-Pro distinction. The Patriots have no need to make any changes there or at long snapper, for that matter, where Joe Cardona has the most job security at that position in Foxborough since Lonie Paxton.
Finally, New England always loves its core special teams players, like Bethel and Davis, who excelled in their roles in 2020. Should they lose either or both of these players, though, bringing back a stalwart like Ebner (2012-19 in New England) would make perfect sense.