After twelve years on the team, the New England Patriots could be looking to part ways with their special teams ace, Matthew Slater, through free agency.
After being drafted in the fifth-round in 2008 as a wide receiver, Slater has transformed into what is arguably the best special teamer in the entire NFL.
We know the Patriots rarely land on an elite talented wide receiver through the draft, but there was a lot of hope for Slater to change the narrative after he ran the 40-yard dash in just 4.4 seconds during the combine. With that being said, Slater only has a handful of receptions throughout his impressive career.
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Although Slater has proved to be extremely valuable to the team, the New England Patriots could be in the position to part ways with their 8-time Pro Bowl selection and locker room leader during the off-season.
Despite helping the team win three Super Bowls over the years, the Patriots have never shown Slater their checkbook. He has never received a contract worth more than 4-years and $ 5.4 million throughout his career. In fact, Slater has even agreed to take team friendly deals to remain in New England.
More recently, in 2018, the Patriots and Slater agreed on a two-year contract extension worth $ 5.2 million up to the 2020 season. Seeing as that could have very well been the last extension the team does with Slater, what does the future hold for the Patriots’ special teams captain?
This past season, the Patriots were in dire need of wide receivers as Tom Brady was playing with limited options to throw the ball to. Although he probably knows the plays by now, the team was reluctant to give Slater the nod to fill in at receiver. Which seems odd, as the Patriots are notorious for their roster versatility.
Let Slater walk
It’s hard to admit, but given the current state of the team, the Patriots can’t afford to keep players like Slater on the roster just because they’ve been here for a while. While understanding the business side of the game, he has expressed that he plans on playing football next season and would prefer to finish out his career in New England.
"“I think I’ve expressed several times my desire to play the entirety of my career here. When you play 12 years in one location, it’s hard for you to imagine playing anywhere else. I’ve certainly expressed that publicly. I’ve expressed that privately. But again, ultimately, sometimes that decision isn’t always in your hands. We’ll see how things go moving forward.”"
It’s worth mentioning that the New England Patriots signed veteran cornerback Justin Bethel part way through the season last year. Bethel has also proved to be a standout special teamer throughout his career and is able to provide more depth in the secondary.
Even though having both Bethel and Slater being on opposite ends of the line is appealing, it just doesn’t seem realistic to have both players on the roster. Keeping in mind that Bethel is under contract and Slater is not, it seems like it’s going to come down to one or the other.
With a scroll-list full of free agents this off season, retaining Matthew Slater unfortunately just doesn’t seem to be a top priority for the New England Patriots, as they’re trying to move forward to the next wave of their franchise.