The new NFL year begins Wednesday, March 13, and with it, the advent of 2019'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
Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P)
OTHER NOTABLE NFL FREE AGENTS
Kickers: Ka'imi Fairbairn (Houston Texans), Jason Myers (New York Jets), Will Lutz (New Orleans Saints – RFA)
Punters: Donnie Jones (L.A. Chargers), Pat O'Donnell (Chicago Bears)
Long Snappers: J.P. Ladouceur (Dallas Cowboys), Zak DeOssie (New York Giants)
Kickers: Gostkowski, Myers, Josh Lambo (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Punters: Allen, O'Donnell
Since the Patriots drafted him in 2006, Gostkowski has been a reliable replacement for future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri. Even now, in his mid-30s, Gostkowski remains one of the strongest-legged kickers in the league and among the more accurate, despite some misses in high-profile situations. The Patriots could look for a younger player in free agency (or even the NFL Draft), like Myers or Lambo. Will Lutz of the Saints is another youthful option, but as a restricted free agent, he's going to be more costly to acquire. My hunch is that the team still has faith in Gostkowski and they'll work out an arrangement for a new deal to keep him in Foxborough for the foreseeable future.
Allen, meanwhile, bounced back with a solid 2018 campaign after staving off rookie challenger Cory Bojorquez back in the spring and summer. At 28 years old, he's in the prime of his career, and while he doesn't always get the chance to show off his powerful leg because of New England's advantageous field position, Allen has proven adept at dropping punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
He could get tempting offers elsewhere this offseason, his first foray into free agency, but I could easily see Allen staying put with the Patriots, as he is also Gostkowski's holder for placekicks. If New England can't secure Allen, the free agent market for punters is slim, with just four other veterans out there this year. O'Donnell might be the best of them.
At long snapper, there are more free agent options from which to choose, but after inking Joe Cardona to a four-year pact last June, there doesn't appear to be a need for a change at that spot here in New England.