The changing of the guard continues in Foxborough.
On Monday, the Patriots released longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski. After Tom Brady, who signed with Tampa Bay last week, Gostkowski was the longest tenured member of the Patriots. Last year was the kicker’s 14th season in New England, and he exits as one of the best kickers in franchise history. The Pats will save around $3 million in cap space by releasing the veteran.
Gostkowski, 36, is coming off a rough year. He played in just four games last season, connecting on 7/8 field goals. Gostkowski suffered a season-ending hip injury that also required surgery. That led the Patriots on a kicking odyssey that saw three different kickers come and go in Foxborough.
First, there was Mike Nugent. He lasted four games and was released after making 62.5% of his field goals (5/8). Next, Nick Folk brought some normalcy to the position. However, the veteran needed an emergency appendectomy. That forced the Pats to turn to Kai Forbath for one game. Folk returned and ended the season hitting 82.4% of his field goals (14/17). Folk is currently a free agent.
As the Patriots saw, replacing Gostkowski wasn’t an easy feat. It’s been quite the journey for the kicker in Foxboro. A fourth-round draft pick in 2006, Gostkowski had the impossible task of replacing Adam Vinatieri. Over the years, he turned into one of the greatest kickers to come through the Patriots program. A three-time Super Bowl champion, Gostkowski is a four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro.
Gostkowski is the Patriots all-time leading scorer (1,771). Vinatieri (1,158) is in second place. The kicker owns the Patriots record for the longest field goal (62 yards in 2017). From 2006-2016, Gostkowski made an NFL record 478 consecutive extra points. He also led the NFL in scoring in five seasons (2008, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015).
Now, the Patriots will add kicker to their growing list of needs. The team could attempt to bring back Folk. Other free agent kickers on the market include Vinatieri, Greg Zuerlein and Ryan Succop. The Patriots could also very well turn to the 2020 NFL draft. Some of the top kicking prospects are Rodrigo Blankenship (Georgia), Tyler Bass (Georgia Southern), and Dominik Eberle (Utah State).
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