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Offseason Position Spotlight: Specialists

Inspecting the current state of the Patriots roster, with an eye toward the upcoming free agent signing period.


Patriots Specialist Roster*: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Danny Aiken

Gostkowski proved once again that he's one of the best kickers in the NFL. He was voted to the Pro Bowl after a 2014 season that saw him convert all 51 extra point attempts and all but two of his 37 field goal tries. He crushed more than half of his kickoffs for touchbacks, even in the cold on Foxborough late in the year. And in the process, he became New England's all-time leading scorer, supplanting Adam Vinatieri at the top of the list.

Second-year punter Allen was noticeably more consistent in both long and short-range (plus-50) punts, was reliable as Gostkowski's holder on placekicks, and set a Super Bowl record for longest punt.

Of the trio, only Aiken had a shaky 2014. He was actually cut at the start of the year and remained on tenuous turf all season, as the team tried a number of times to replace him. Aiken managed to hold onto his job, despite having to look over his shoulder, not just through his legs.

Potential Free Agents: Aiken, Don Muhlbach, Cullen Loeffler

Had the Patriots not applied their 2015 franchise tag to Gostkowski, I would have said there was a chance (however slim) that they would look elsewhere, and if there's anyone more clutch than Gostkowski at the moment, it's Justin Tucker, who's a restricted free agent. However, that's a moot point now with Gostkowski being tagged. My sense is the team will try to work with him on a longer-term deal so that he doesn't become a free agent again next offseason.

Meanwhile, they'll probably now target the long snapper position. Quite a few are available, with long-time veterans Muhlbach and Loeffler having proven themselves reliable for the past decade with Detroit and Minnesota, respectively.

The veteran punter market is weak, and even if it weren't, I don't foresee the Patriots looking to challenge Allen.

Bottom Line Here: Gostkowski should be re-signed, but a change could be made at long snapper.

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