While kickers rarely get the glory or spotlight on the NFL field, their scoring presence is undeniable. Consistency on special teams can make or break teams, and the Patriots have benefited from two exceptional place kickers during the last 14 years. Other specialists are already in place; the Patriots found a gem in Ryan Allen last year, and substituting Zoltan Mesko for the rookie out of Louisiana Tech was another bold and well executed move by Bill Belichick. Just recently, the Patriots resigned long-snapper Danny Aiken, their lone restricted free agent, and brought in Charley Hughlett to provide backup and/or competition. The Patriots should have only one other base to cover in terms of specialists: extend Stephen Gostkowski and make him a life-long Patriot.
Gostkowski joined the organization in 2006 after the departure of Patriots legend, Adam Vinatieri. He was the only rookie kicker to make an NFL roster after being drafted 118th out of Memphis, and only one of two kickers drafted. After beating out Martin Gramatica in the preseason for the starting job, Gostkowski solidified his role with the Patriots and has never faced any other competition. He is one of two NFL players to score 500 points in his first four seasons, and he has led the league in scoring three times (2008, 2012 and 2013).
The two-time Pro Bowler has played all 16 games each season except for the 2010 season, when he was placed on the IR for a thigh injury after 8 games. This year, only Justin Tucker converted as many field goals as Gostkowski (38) and he posted a career high and league leading 158 points. Gostowski scored 5 points in every game in 2011, and memorably took over punting duties when Ryan Allen hurt his collarbone in the AFC Divisional game against the Colts last season, averaging 41.8 yards per punt. He had never punted in an NFL game before.
The statistics go on and on. What we know is this: Gostkowski is one of the most consistent, accurate and highest scoring kickers in NFL history. In 2010 he signed a four-year extension at $14 million with $5 million guaranteed. He has $3.8 million cap charge this season and is only 30 years old.
With some kickers still performing close to age 40, Stephen deserves to be resigned, and the move could open up some cap space for the Patriots to continue this excellent free-agency spree. There are still holes to be plugged at defensive tackle and the interior offensive line and the Patriots could do themselves a huge service by extending Gostkowski for another 4 years. With opportunities to release Adrian Wilson and restructure the contracts of veterans Dan Connolly and Vince Wilfork, the Patriots could still make some important moves in free agency. Hard work is rewarded on this team, and no one deserves an extension right now more than Stephen Gostkowski.