The DeVante Parker trade was admittedly a timely distraction to what has been a disappointing offseason for the New England Patriots.
Though confusing, it wasn’t entirely surprising that the Patriots parted ways with JC Jackson, Ted Karras and Shaq Mason. For better or worse, Bill Belichick believes cornerbacks and interior offensive linemen are plug-and-play positions.
Whether Belichick lives to regret those decisions remains to be seen, but is the six-time champion now taking a similar approach to special teams?
The Patriots typically emphasize retaining key pieces of their special teams unit, but this offseason has proven to be the exception.
Between Brandon Bolden, who proved invaluable as a special teams gunner and rotational running back last season, and Gunner Olszewski, who earned All-Pro honors as a punt returner in 2020, the unit has lost two of its most important members thus far.
On Tuesday, that number crept up to three, as free agent Brandon King inked a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts.
Patriots special teamer Brandon King has signed with the Colts
Don’t be confused by Adam Schefter’s tweet, folks. Over five NFL seasons, King has logged just two snaps on defense, so he’s far from a “defensive specialist.” As far as special teams aces go, though, few are better than King.
For context, King, who had spent his entire career with the Patriots before signing with the Colts, has played 1,390 special teams snaps, which equates to 278 per season, and has never logged less than a 65% snap share on special teams. Those numbers are nothing to scoff at and they won’t be easily replaceable.
A former undrafted free agent out of Auburn who had to earn his spot on the Patriots’ roster from the practice squad, King appeared in 85 total games for New England, including the playoffs, and won two Super Bowls with the franchise.
A pair of injuries cost King the entirety of the 2019 and 2020 seasons, but he returned to his familiar gunner role this past campaign. Per Pro Football Reference, the 28-year-old totaled 303 special teams snaps and his 69.3% share ranked fourth on the team behind Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel and Cody Davis.
We all know how much Belichick loves versatility and King personified that with his five differing roles on special teams. Just last season, he was used on kickoff and punt coverage, both return teams, and on field goals and extra points.
There’s a reason King and Slater are widely viewed as one of the best special teams duos the league has to offer. Slater gets all the plaudits from the media, and rightly so, but you better believe King’s absence will be felt in 2022.
It’s not a catastrophic loss by any stretch, but it just punctuates how uncharacteristic this offseason has been for the Patriots.