Stephen Gostkowski deserves to play somewhere in 2020

Stephen Gostkowski might no longer be wanted in New England by the Patriots, but he should find employment somewhere else in the NFL this season.

The New England Patriots ranked 19th in overall field goal percentage as a team last season, with their placekickers converting a total of 27 field goals out of 34 attempts for a 79.4% success rate.

That’s a pretty low metric for a team that has been blessed by terrific stability and performance at kicker for the past two decades plus.

Adam Vinatieri was the kicker for the Pats from 1996 to 2005, and upon his departure for the Indianapolis Colts, New England replaced him with Stephen Gostkowski, who was in Foxborough from 2006 through 2019.

Unfortunately, Gostkowski sustained a left hip injury at some point early last year and was placed on IR in early October. Gostkowski’s replacements — Mike Nugent, Nick Folk, Kai Forbath, and then Nick Folk again — all had varying levels of success while with the team.

Folk was certainly the best of the bunch, converting 14 of 17 field goals (including one that was over 50 yards) and making all 12 of his extra point attempts.

Forbath only played in the Houston game because Folk was injured, and while he made his lone field goal attempt of 23 yards, he missed one of his two extra point attempts.

Nugent made just five of his eight field goal tries and 15 of his 16 extra point attempts from Weeks 5-8 while he was with the team.

And Gostkowski, who only played Weeks 1-4, made seven of eight field goals but somehow missed four of his 15 extra point attempts, including at least one in Weeks 2, 3, and 4 consecutively.

With the news that Gostkowski has been released by the Patriots after 14 years with the franchise — and the drafting of Justin Rohrwasser to replace him last month — it begs the question of whether or not the veteran free agent will find a new home sometime this season.

Though he’s already 36 years old, kickers can stay in the NFL much longer than most other positions because of the significantly lower risk of injury during their careers. Vinatieri is 47 years old, Matt Bryant is 44 years old, and Phil Dawson — who just retired last year — was 44 years old as well when he hung up his cleats.

The moral of the story is that if Gostkowski wants to keep competing in the NFL, he could have at the very least another five-to-10 years if he wanted to — depending on the severity of his hip injury and how well he’s recovered since then, too, of course.

Gostkowski is currently top-five all-time in field goal percentage at 87.38%. Of kickers who have played more than five seasons in the pros, only the Ravens’ Justin Tucker has a higher career conversion success rate at 90.75%.

Gostkowski deserves an opportunity with another team this season. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, he also doesn’t sound like he’s in any rush to try and sign with someone right this minute either:

“No one is practicing right now, so it’s not like I’m missing competing with someone in OTAs. If things work out like I think they will, I’ll have an opportunity around training camp, whenever the NFL decides that will be. I want to try to find a place where I can have a chance to compete. With the kicker position, there’s usually two, three, four spots that are up in the air, but you just have to find the right place.”

Just as Patriots fans should find themselves rooting for Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski down on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, they should do the same for Stephen Gostkowski on whatever team he ends up on.

Just as long as none of these guys are ever playing New England, of course.