4 Patriots on Thin Ice Heading Into Free Agency

These four New England Patriots players find themselves on thin ice as the NFL free agency period is set to open on March 13.

Patriots WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of four players on thin ice in New England ahead of free agency.
Patriots WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of four players on thin ice in New England ahead of free agency. / Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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4. K Chad Ryland

While some teams wait until later rounds of the NFL Draft to add kickers, that wasn't the case for the Patriots, who selected Chad Ryland out of Maryland with the 112th overall selection last year.

It was a decision that made sense at the time. Nick Folk wasn't getting any younger and the Patriots needed a kicker who could consistently hit his attempts. Ryland fit that description on paper after kicking his way to second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2022.

On one hand, Ryland was near-perfect following a touchdown, going 24-for-25 (96.0%) on extra-point attempts. On the other hand, he tallied an NFL-worst 64.0% field-goal percentage connecting on only 16 of his 25 tries. He also struggled as the distance grew, recording a 50.0% success rate when kicking from 40 yards or further compared to being 81.2% inside of the 39-yard line.

What's even more frustrating is that while Ryland struggled, Folk went on to have a terrific campaign with the Titans, leading the league with a 96.7 FG%.

At the end of the day, the Patriots need a reliable kicker to win games and the jury is still out whether or not Ryland can be that guy. With veteran kickers like Folk, Greg Zuerlein, and Brandon McManus hitting free agency, I won't be surprised if New England brings an experienced leg in to challenge Ryland throughout training camp.

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