The Patriots cannot afford to have special teams savant Matthew Slater leave for retirement.
It was really only a matter of time until the New England Patriots two-decade run of being the gold standard of the NFL was going to end.
That might be a difficult pill to swallow for fans, but you can only maintain success for so long before roster and coaching turnover begin to settle in and make it impossible to make winning division titles and championships look ordinary.
Taking all of that into account, it wouldn’t be hyperbolic to deem this upcoming offseason as one of the most important in Patriots’ history. Re-signing core pieces and making key upgrades via the draft and free agency (or trade) will go a long way in clamping their myriad roster holes.
Unfortunately for the Pats, however, it appears that special teams savant and team captain Matthew Slater is unsure of whether he’ll return for his 14th season. Losing him would be a devastating blow to their waning team identity, so this is a fairly significant development.
"“I try not to think about that, especially in the middle of a season, in the middle of a quest, focusing on finishing that quest,” Slater told reporters. “I don’t know. I think that’s something that (my wife) Shahrzad and I are going to have to pray about, and we’re going to have to see what we feel like is best for our family.“Obviously, there’s got to be desire from the organization to want me back here. I don’t see myself playing anywhere else. So we’ll be praying about that like we have been the last couple of years, and if we feel like the Lord is telling us to do something, we want to be obedient in that way.”"
Those sound like the words of somebody who’s genuinely torn on whether or not to return, and considering all that Slater has given the franchise — with whom he’s spent his 13-year career — he deserves all the time necessary to make a decision.
With that being said, however, the Patriots desperately need him to return in 2021. Assuming they undergo some semblance of a roster overhaul, his veteran presence and influential voice in the locker room will be paramount on a team comprised of young players.
Depending how things play out in the offseason, Slater could very well end up being one of last remaining players from the championship era. The 35-year-old vet is under contract for next season, but his deal contains a potential out, and that’s certainly something to keep tabs on.
The last thing we want to do is put words in Slater’s mouth, but his comments really made it seem like his decision will be either one of two things: return to the Patriots or call it a career. And that should have the fan base feeling somewhat uneasy.