|Patriots officially announce franchise tag designation for Stephen Gostkowski||03.02.15 at 4:58 pm ET|
The Patriots made it official Monday afternoon, announcing they had placed the franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski. The team issued the following statement:
“Stephen has been extremely productive and a vital component to our success since joining our team in 2006. Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal.”
Here’s a portion of the release, as issued by the franchise:
Gostkowski was named to the Pro Bowl for the second straight season in 2014 and for the third time overall since joining the team as a fourth-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft out of Memphis. He led the NFL in 2014 with 156 total points. Gostkowski also led the NFL in points in 2008, 2012 and 2013, becoming just the third player to lead the NFL in points in at least four seasons. He has connected on 86.8 percent of his regular-season field goal attempts since entering the NFL (243-of-280), the best field goal percentage in Patriots history.
Gostkowski became the Patriots’ all-time leading scorer in the win vs. Miami on Dec. 14 and now has 1,179 career points. He was 35-of-37 on field goals in 2014 for a 94.6 field goal percentage, the highest field goal percentage in a single season for the Patriots.
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The Patriots have used their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
The franchise tag will pay Gostkowski $4.1 million in 2015, less than half of the $9.6 million it would cost to franchise safety Devin McCourty.
Reading the tea leaves, it would suggest the Patriots are working on a long-term deal with McCourty that would achieve the end goal of locking up both players and save money against the cap that could wind up becoming critical in their ultimate decision on Darrelle Revis.
The Patriots drafted Gostkowski in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL draft to replace Adam Vinatieri. In nine seasons in New England, Gostkowski has converted 243 of his 280 field goal attempts and has become one of the most dependable kickoff specialists in the league.
He enters 2015 only 20 field goals shy of Vinatieri’s franchise record.
The franchise tag is a designation a team may apply to a player scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. The tag binds the player to the team for one year if certain conditions are met. Each team has access each year to only one franchise tag (of either the exclusive or non-exclusive forms) and one transition tag. As a result, each team may only designate one player each year as that team’s franchise player.
A franchise tag affords the retaining team the privilege of strategically retaining valuable free-agent players while seeking talent through the NFL draft or other acquisitions without exceeding the League’s salary cap. A team may also franchise tag a player with 2 or more years left on a contract. Read the rest of this entry »
|If Patriots use franchise tag, why they’re more apt to use on Devin McCourty than Stephen Gostkowski||02.16.15 at 10:31 pm ET|
Monday marked the first day of the NFL’s franchise tag window, where teams can designated one player who is set to be a free agent on their roster the franchise tag.
The most common designation is the non-exclusive franchise tag where the player must be offered a one-year deal based on the average of the non-exclusive franchise numbers at his position over the last five seasons and their percentage of that year’s salary cap or 120 percent of his prior year’s base salary, whichever is greater. If a player does get a non-exclusive franchise tag, they can talk with other teams, but if he signs an offer sheet with another club, his team has five days to match the offer. If the offer is not matched, his team will receive two first-round picks as compensation from the signing team.
The two-week window ends March 2, right before the start of free agency.
The Patriots have not used the tag since 2012, when New England franchised Wes Welker, only to see him depart via free agency the following offseason. Prior to Welker, the team used it on Vince Wilfork in 2010 and Logan Mankins in 2011 and then eventually settled to contract extensions, which could be the case again this year (For a complete look at the Patriots’ history with the franchise tag, check out Chris Price’s Sunday Notes from this week).
While the Patriots have used the franchise tag on a kicker before (Adam Vinatieri), it doesn’t seem to make much sense this time around. Gostkowski just wrapped up a five-year, $15,759,000 contract where he made just over $3 million a year. According to NFL Media’s Albert Breer, the value of the franchise tag for a kicker for 2015 would be $4.12 million. The highest paid kicker in the NFL is currently Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski, making an average of $3.75 million a year.
Gostkowski, who turned 31 during Super Bowl week has emerged as one of the best kickers in the game (finishing second in the NFL in field goal percentage this past year), and will seemingly want to be the highest paid kicker in the game. With plenty of good seasons left in him, why not make him the highest paid kicker in the game (above $3.75 million a year), and sign him to a multi-year extension? There’s no need to mess around with the franchise tag, especially when the value is over $4 million. So by not using it on Gostkowski and making him the highest paid kicker in the game, New England would actually likely save themselves money.
From this viewpoint, McCourty is the more likely to be designated the tag. He’s finished his rookie contract, and could not be at a better point in his career. After being moved from cornerback to safety, he’s become one of the better safeties in the game and it doesn’t hurt he’s coming off a Super Bowl win. From a New England perspective, he seems to enjoy being a member of the Patriots and is well-respected in the locker room, as well as by coach Bill Belichick.
|Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Special teams||02.09.15 at 9:30 am ET|
With the Patriots done for the season, we’ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand. We kick off the series with a look at the special teams.
Overview: While the Patriots got steady and consistent performances on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball all year, the special teams were a true difference maker for New England on several occasions over the course of the 2014 season.
The Patriots had three different players win AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors, they tied for the league lead in field goals blocked per game, and were among the league leaders in almost every major special teams category. Gostkowski finished second in the league in field-goal accuracy (at 94.6 percent, he was second only to Indy’s Adam Vinatieri at 96.8 percent) and Edelman’s 12.0 return average on punt returns was second best in the NFL this season (trailing only Philly’s Darren Sproles at 13.0.) Meanwhile, Amendola gave a midseason boost to the kick return unit, and provided some consistency, averaging 24.1 yards per return, including an 81-yarder in a win over the Lions. Allen was 12th in the league in net punting average (39.9), dropped 25 of his 66 regular-season punts inside the 20 and set a Super Bowl record with a 64-yard punt in the third quarter of last Sunday’s win over the Seahawks. The Patriots were also fifth in the league in kick coverage (yielding 21.2 yards per attempt) and 16th in punt coverage (9.2 yards per attempt). All in all, a terrific season for New England’s special teams unit, which came up big on several occasions over the course of the year.
Going forward, the group will be challenged, as longtime special teams coach Scott O’Brien announced his retirement in the days after the Super Bowl. Special teams assistant Joe Judge will take the reins, and while he’s considered a well-respected coach who is ready to ascend, it’ll be tough to replicate what O’Brien did with the group in 2014.
|Patriots using San Diego trip earlier this year to prepare for weeklong stay in Arizona||01.25.15 at 7:00 am ET|
FOXBORO — This coming week’s trip to Arizona won’t be the first time the Patriots have spent a week preparing for a game away from their usual confines of Gillette Stadium, as the team spent a week in San Diego in December prior to their game with the Chargers.
New England played Green Bay in Green Bay on Nov. 30 and then the Chargers the following Sunday night. Instead of traveling back to New England and then across the country again a few days later, the team instead went right to San Diego and spent the the week there.
Fullback James Develin said the experience could help the team a bit for what is to come this week in Arizona.
“I think so,” he said. “It’s always valuable to have some kind of experience like that – going away for a long period of time, but really, we’re just looking at this week and just trying to prepare for it the best we can and just try to get ready for Seattle because they’re a very good team.”
New England played one of their better games of the season after their week out West — a 23-14 win over the Chargers.
For kicker Stephen Gostkowski he doesn’t care where the Super Bowl is and where the team has to spend a week — as long as his family gets there, that is all that matters to him. He said the things will still be the same as the Patriots will still need to have their old saying, “Ignore the noise.”
“I mean, we don’t think about that stuff,” Gostkowski said. “We just worry about the game and the people who handle the logistics deal with that and we just worry about making sure our family and friends get down there safely and we enjoy the experience. At the same time we have a job to do and it’s all focus on the game, really. We could be playing in Missouri and we wouldn’t care. It’s the Super Bowl, it’s exciting, we’ve stayed at hotels before, nothing is different. There’s just going to be a big spotlight on it and we’re just going to deal with the distraction and ignore the noise.”
Cornerback Kyle Arrington joked how getting away from New England at time of the year is good no matter what, but having their families with them, unlike in December, will be a positive thing.
“Well, ideally, it’s nice to go somewhere warm this time of year and not be in Foxboro, but it was a good experience being out in San Diego for a week and being away,” Arrington said. “This time a lot of guys will have their families out there in Arizona, so it will make it less difficult.”
|No question about it: The answer that convinced Patriots they could move on from Adam Vinatieri||01.15.15 at 10:44 pm ET|
Three Super Bowl titles, including game-winning field goals in two of them. Ten years of service with an 82 percent success rate on field goals. Eighteen game-winning field goals with less than one minute remaining, including the postseason. A franchise-leading (at the time) 1,158 points.
Those were some of the biggest things the Patriots were replacing following the 2005 season when they didn’t place the franchise tag on Adam Vinatieri and moved on from the franchise’s leading scorer, who then signed with the Colts.
Kickers are rarely taken in the NFL draft. In fact, since 2006 just 16 place kickers have been selected. In the 2006 draft just two kickers were selected, but the Patriots selected one of them in the fourth round — Stephen Gostkowski out of the University of Memphis.
Gostkowski’s numbers were pretty good his senior season — connecting on 22-of-25 field goals, including 10-for-10 from 40 yards or more. There were other talented kickers out there, and the Patriots could have looked within the league for their next kicker, but it was an answer they got from Memphis coach Tommy West that set Gostkowski above everyone else.
“He’s a tough guy. He’s a great competitor. That is what you want,” West, the current defensive line coach at Middle Tennessee State University, said via phone earlier this week. “I remember one question from one of the New England people, ‘Can he take hard coaching because coach [Bill] Belichick is. Is anyone hard on him?’ I said, ‘Oh, I promise you. He can take hard coaching. He’s used to that.’ ”
His special teams coach at the time, Tyson Helton, now the offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky, said that hard coaching, very similar to Belichick, was the best thing that could have happened for Gostkowski, who started at Memphis with a baseball scholarship and walked on to the football team.
“The greatest thing for Stephen Gostkowski was he had a head coach at the University of Memphis in Tommy West,” Helton said over the phone earlier this week. “Tommy West is a players coach, but Tommy treated Stephen and coached Stephen like he would any one of our players and he was hard on Stephen. He put Stephen into a lot of hard situations. Tommy is one of those guys that when you meet him you go, ‘Gosh, this guy is an intimidating person,’ but Tommy is a great guy. He cares about his players but is one of those figures that you go, ‘Man, this guy is intimidating.’
“He was hard on Stephen in the sense that he knew he was very talented and wanted to get the most out of Stephen and he knew Stephen could handle the pressure. I think being coached by Tommy for those four years really helped Stephen to say, ‘It doesn’t matter who I kick against, what level I’m at, or what arena I am put in, I am going to perform,’ because I think he gave Stephen that confidence and really developed into a guy that can handle pressure, and handle confrontation and handle stressful situations. I think Tommy did a tremendous job.”
|Five Patriots named to Pro Bowl, including QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski and CB Darrelle Revis||12.23.14 at 8:12 pm ET|
Quarterback Tom Brady, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, tight end Rob Gronkowski, cornerback Darrelle Revis and special teamer Matthew Slater have been selected to represent the Patriots in the 2015 Pro Bowl.
Players will later be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft during the week leading up to the game, which will be played on January 25, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona, site of Super Bowl XLIX. (If the Patriots are one of the two teams involved in the Super Bowl, they’re excused from playing in the game.)
Here’s a portion of the release issued by the team:
Brady was named to the Pro Bowl for a franchise record 10th time in his 15-year career. This year’s selection moves Brady ahead of Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Hannah, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection. It is Brady’s sixth consecutive selection to the all-star game. He was voted to the Pro Bowl after each of the following seasons: 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and now, 2014. Brady heads into the final week of the season with 4,029 yards and 33 touchdown passes. He joined Drew Brees (9) and Peyton Manning (14) as the only NFL players to have at least seven seasons with 4,000 passing yards. Brady also guided the Patriots to their 12th division title of his career, the most by a quarterback in NFL history.
Gostkowski was named to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his career and for the second straight season. He enters the final week of the season with an NFL-leading 147 points. He has led the NFL in points in 2008, 2012 and 2013 and can become just the third player to lead the NFL in points in at least four seasons. Gostkowski became the Patriots’ all-time leading scorer vs. Miami (12/14) and currently has 1,170 career points. He is 32-of-34 on field goals in 2014 for a 94.1 field goal percentage. If he stays on pace, that will be the highest field goal percentage in team history for a season.
Read the rest of this entry »