Stephen Gostkowski is sure to demand attention on the open market, but where will the four-time Pro Bowler land?
Throughout the next several weeks, we’ll be assessing the market on some of the best free agents set to come available on March 14. Beyond scheme fit, these decisions will be impacted by available finances, team thoughts on current draft prospects and perception of value vs. actual value. We’ll try and parse through those ideas here.
Player: Stephen Gostkowski
2018 Salary: $3.5 million
2018 Statistics: 84.4% from all field goals (4-of-6 from 40 to 49 yards, 2-of-5 from 50-plus yards, 21-21 from 20-39 yards. From extra point distance: 49-of-50).
Why he’s a top-tier free agent: A four-time Pro Bowler with five career seasons of 90 percentage points or better in field goal accuracy, Gostkowski was good enough to replace the legendary Adam Vinatieri in New England and keep the job from the time he was 22 until he turned 34. The Patriots opted not to use the franchise tag on him, though Gostkowski could easily come to terms on a longer deal once he has the chance to assess his market.
Risks Involved: If I’m another team, I’m slightly wary of anyone Bill Belichick gets rid of. That’s especially true if that player lands in Belichick’s second love — special teams. Vinatieri turned out just fine, of course, and this may be just a cost-saving measure for a Patriots team with big plans this offseason. It’s unfair to say Gostkowski was inconsistent this year — yes, he did miss a kick in the Super Bowl, and struggled at times over the course of the regular season. But struggle is a relative term for a player who is third all-time on the NFL’s career field-goal percentage leaderboard behind only Justin Tucker and Robbie Gould.
Market prospects: Remember what happened in Chicago to end the wild-card round? There are going to be some teams hell-bent on snapping up a sure-fire kicker this offseason in lieu of plucking from the college ranks or dealing with the headache-inducing kicker shuffle and simply bringing in another mercenary for a year. Matt Bryant, Phil Dawson, Dan Bailey, Cairo Santos, Chandler Catanzaro and Kai Forbath are some other names out there right now. I agree with NESN’s assessment here, that it’s insane Gostkowski has not gotten the credit other kickers do given how consistent he’s been for so long.
Contract comps: This should be a fairly simple projection here. The kicker market, like the quarterback market, tries to top itself marginally with each new deal. There’s been a steady climb after Tucker’s contract, which should earn Gostkowski a nice little bump.
Graham Gano: 4 years, $17 million / $4.25 million APY
Justin Tucker: 4 years, $16.8 million/ $4.2 million APY