New England Patriots Off-season Outlook By Position: Part 8 of 8: Special Teams


Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA;New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater (18) celebrates the Patriots victory in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

After winning Super Bowl 49 it has been a tumultuous off-season for the New England Patriots. The Patriots have had a frustrating free agency period as they lost running back Shane Vereen to the Giants and cornerback Darrelle Revis to the Jets. The Patriots have already made one big move locking up free safety Devin McCourty to a long-term contract. In addition, New England used the franchise tag to keep potential free agent kicker Stephen Gostkowski on the roster.


Long-time defensive tackle Vince Wilfork is a free agent after the Patriots declined to pick-up his option. The team has not made a move on guard Dan Connolly either. Also, they let cornerback Brandon Browner leave when they declined to pick-up his option as well. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas–who was acquired at midseason from Tampa Bay–also is on his way to New York for a ridiculous three years and $10.5 million contract. Linebacker Akeem Ayers left for greener pastures, but veteran defensive tackle Alan Branch is back in the fold.


The NFL Draft follows in May, but by then the Patriots will be well into reshaping the roster. Last season New England had a strong foray into free agency bringing in wide receiver Brandon LaFell (74 receptions for 953 yards and 7 touchdowns), re-signing wide receiver Julian Edelman (92 receptions for 972 yards and 4 touchdowns), and re-signing valuable blocking tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and guard/center Ryan Wendell on offense (all stats from unless otherwise noted). On defense Revis was the the crown jewel but cornerback Brandon Browner and safety Patrick Chung brought hard-hitting swagger to the defense.


Nov 16, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns outside linebacker

Jabaal Sheard

(97) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

This season the Patriots will need to revamp their defense as they are now missing their top two cornerbacks from their Super Bowl championship team (although they did retaining both starting safeties). There are other free agents who could stick in New England but may get a look from other teams. The Patriots brought in pass rusher Jabaal Sheard who was highly productive in Cleveland and is strong against the run and bringing pressure from defensive end or outside linebacker.


Looking at free agency needs and the 2015 NFL Draft, this series first addressed the offense by looking at the most important position in part one: quarterback. Part two of the off-season delved into the running back position. Part three kept the focus on the offense and takes a look at the wide receivers and tight ends.  The offense wrapped up with part four taking a look at the offensive line. Part five moved to the defense and started with the defensive line. Part six delved into the linebackers. Part seven looked at the soon to be revamped secondary. The off-season review concludes with a look at the special teams.


Special Teams:


Under contract: K Stephen Gostkowski ($4.59 million cap number); KR/PR Danny Amendola ($3.12 million cap number); Matthew Slater ($1.76 million cap number); Tavon Wilson ($1.34 million cap number); Brandon Bolden ($1.035 million cap number); Nate Ebner $684k cap number); P Ryan Allen $585k cap number); Jonathan Freeny (terms not announced); Chimdi Chekwa (terms not announced); Kevin Dorsey ($665k cap number).


Dec 14, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots punter Ryan Allen (6) holds the ball for kicker Stephen Gostkowski (3) against the Miami Dolphins during the third quarter at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots won 41-13. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

No team puts more value on special teams than the New England Patriots. After getting his start in the NFL as a special teams coach, Bill Belichick has never been shy about devoting resources to the “third phase” of the game. This off-season was no different as while the fan base panicked, the Patriots kept adding complementary pieces to shore up their special teams unit.


The Patriots had already re-signed running back and special teams player Brandon Bolden before the end of the 2014 season and were able to restructure wide receiver and kick and punt returner Danny Amendola this off-season in order to keep the special teams return unit strong.


New England re-upped kicker Stephen Gostkowski with the franchise tag to keep the reliable kicker in Foxboro, MA at least one more season. The team is expected to try and work out a long-term deal with Gostkowski to keep his booming kick-offs and accurate field goal kicking for the foreseeable future.


Nov 17, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins linebacker Jonathan Freeny (56) walks off the field against the San Diego Chargers after the second half at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins won the game 20-16. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots also signed Jonathan Freeny, a back-up linebacker, Chimdi Chekwa, a back-up cornerback, and Kevin Dorsey, a back-up wide receiver. All three were all signed to add depth, but really they were brought in to shore up Bill Belichick’s favorite position: special teams. In addition, the Patriots re-upped Brian Tyms and linebacker Chris White to compete for special teams jobs. Add returning fullback James Develin to the mix on special teams and the Patriots are just a long-snapper (bringing back Danny Aiken?) away from a complete special teams upgrade.


Need (Low, Mid, High): Low


Free Agent Activity & Draft:

The Patriots always find a way to bring in additional talent at special teams and there will likely be late round draft picks thrown into the mix. The Patriots have already boosted their special teams group through re-signings and through free agency. Late round draft picks and undrafted free agents will arrive to training camp in July knowing that if they open eyes on special teams they can earn a roster spot on the defending Super Bowl champions.