This is the final installment of the New England Patriots team needs feature at cover32.com this off-season. If you missed any previous position installments, they can be found here. The series finishes with a look at the special teams performers, particularly the kicker and punter positions.
At kicker the Patriots may have a bigger need than many anticipate. Although kicker Stephen Gostkowski earned a trip to the Pro Bowl after making 39 of 41 field goal attempts, he enters the last year of his contract and carries a $3.8 million salary cap charge in 2014. While there is an expectation that Gostkowski works out an extension, one only has to consider the previous Pro Bowl kicker in New England to remember a contract extension with the Patriots is never a sure thing.
Former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri was the most clutch kicker in the NFL and a vital part of three Super Bowl championships after the 2005 season. Vinatieri seemed a lock to remain in New England a long time despite having the franchise tag placed on him the prior season. When the Patriots failed to move quickly on resigning “Automatic Adam” he spurned them for AFC rival Indianapolis, where he has continued to excel.
With Gostkowski nearing the end of his contract the Patriots have to make a decision if they apply the franchise tag on him next season or work out an extension. Gostkowski not only excels kicking field goals but is a weapon on kickoffs as well. As a bonus, he even stepped up at punter in the AFC Divisional game versus Indianapolis when punter Ryan Allen was sidelined with a shoulder injury.
With his high cap charge there still remains a possibility the Patriots bring in serious competition at kicker this offseason. They set the precedent last season with the punter position.
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