The New England Patriots have a kicker in Stephen Gostkowski, but is there better, cheaper options, either in free agency or the draft to replace Gostkowski?
Prior to the 2019 season, the New England Patriots have had only two kickers under Bill Belichick's tenure with the Patriots. Adam Vinatieri joined the Patriots in 1996, prior to Belichick becoming head coach, and he stayed with the Patriots until he signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. The Patriots drafted Stephen Gostkowski in the fourth round of the 2006 draft, and he's been with the Patriots ever since. Belichick has always put a premium on Special Teams, so it's no coincidence that Belichick won three Super Bowls with both kickers.
Gostkowski struggled out of the gate this season, and in the four games he played with the Patriots before having season ending hip surgery, he went 11 for 15 on extra points. It's hard to determine if the missed extra points stemmed from the injury, technique, or a mental issue.
Since 2015 Gostkowski has had some noticeable misses. In the 2015 AFC Championship Game against the Denver Broncos, Gostkowski missed an extra point on the Patriots opening touchdown. The Patriots would end up losing the game by two points. Gostkowski missed an extra point in Super Bowls 51 against the Atlanta Falcons. He would also miss a field goal attempt in Super Bowl 52 against the Philadelphia Eagles, and in Super Bowl 53 against the LA Rams.
Gostkowski also has a 2020 cap hit of $5.45 million, and releasing him would save the Patriots $3.18 million.
The question is, is this enough of a reason to move on from Stephen Gostkowski, and is there anybody available to replace him?
Mike Masala of Patriots Wire looked at two possible free agents the Patriots could target.
"Mason Crosby is the top guy on the market. Last season, he hit 91.7% of his field goal and 97.6% of his extra points. It would probably take either an offer from a legitimate Super Bowl contender or a lot of money to pry him away from Green Bay where he’s resided since 2007. I’m not sure either can come from New England right now."
"Longtime Ram Greg Zuerlein is also a free agent. In 2019, Zuerlein struggled, hitting only 72.7% of his field goals. However, he was able to nail all 42 of his extra point attempts. With his salary likely being similar to last year’s ($2.25 million), the small savings wouldn’t be worth moving on from Gostkowski."
With it looking unlikely that Mason Crosby would come to the Patriots, and Greg Zuerlein not really looking like a valuable upgrade, it wouldn't make sense for the Patriots to cut Gostkowski for a free agent.
A while back I suggested that the Patriots should look at drafting Rodrigo Blankenship out of Georgia. Masala has the same thoughts as I do.
"Rodrigo Blankenship out of Georgia is this the top kicking prospect in the 2020 draft. He’s hit 82.5% of his field goals in his four years as a Bulldog. Those numbers may not look very impressive to NFL fans, but you can compare them to the 76.1% that Gostkowski hit in his four years at Memphis. It makes a lot more sense to draft a kicker and pay him late-round money to save the most, and Blankenship could be that guy."
Blankenship seems to be the Patriots best option. After exploring the rest of the draft there doesn't seem to be any other prospects worth moving on from Gostkowski for. The good news for the Patriots is, if they missed out on drafting Blankenship, they could just hang on to Gostkowski. He's going to cost them a little more money than he's probably worth right now, but he's been pretty consistent throughout his Patriots career, and if his recovery goes well, New England should be able to rely on Gostkowski for at least one more season.