BOSTON (CBS) — With the release of Stephen Gostkowski, the New England Patriots suddenly need a kicker this offseason.
That wasn’t expected to be on Bill Belichick’s to-do list this offseason, but the Patriots released their long-time kicker on Monday. It shouldn’t be too surprising, given the 36-year-old Gostkowski missed the majority of last season with a hip injury, and there are no guarantees with 36-year-old kickers coming off hip injuries.
But now Belichick needs to find another kicker to replace the franchise’s all-time leader in field goals made. Just add it to the pile of needs, right?
Bill may find himself preoccupied with another position — perhaps, say, quarterback? — so we have a list of gentlemen who can kick the pigskin that may be able to come in and fill Gostkowski’s shoe.
Nick Folk: The 35-year-old did a good enough job in his seven games with the Patriots last season. He hit all eight of his kicks from inside the 40 and 14 of his 17 field goal attempts overall, including one from 51 yards out in a late-season win over the Bills. Folk also put it through the uprights on all 12 of his extra points.
He isn’t a long-term solution at the position, but if the Patriots are looking for a veteran kicker for 2020, they know what they’re getting in Folk.
Adam Vinatieri: If we’re talking about veteran kickers, why not the veteran kicker. After an up and down season in 2019, Vinatieri wants to return for another kick at the can in 2020, which would be his 25th NFL season.
Adam wasn’t so automatic last year, going just 17-for-25 on his field goal attempts and 22-for-28 on his point-after bids. Hitting only 68 percent of his field goal attempts marked his worst season ever, topping the 73.5 percent he hit in New England in 2003. He’s also coming off knee surgery, so there are a lot of red flags here.
But Belichick replaced Vinatieri with Gostkowski in 2006, so if he’s feeling nostalgic, the Pats head coach can go full circle with a guy responsible for some of the greatest kicks in Patriots — and NFL — history.
Ryan Succop: Another veteran coming off a less-than-stellar 2019 season, Succop will likely be a cheap option this offseason. The 33-year-old started last season on IR with a knee injury, and hit just one of his six field goal attempt when he returned in November. He was back on IR in December and the Titans cut Succop this offseason.
For his career, Succop is an 82.2 percent kicker. He’d be another short-term fix for the Patriots.
Zane Gonzalez: At 24, Gonzalez is a potential long-term fix at kicker. But he’d be an expensive one, as the Arizona Cardinals hit him with a second-round tender this offseason.
The Patriots don’t currently own a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, so this would be tricky. A 2017 seventh-round pick by the Browns, Gonzalez wasn’t very impressive for Cleveland, going just 17-for-25 on his field goal attempts (68 percent). He’s been much better since landing with the Cardinals, hitting on 38 of his 44 attempts (86.4 percent), including 4-for-6 from 50+ yards out. He was fourth in the NFL in 2019 in both overall points (127) and field goals made (31).
Josh Gable: None of those NFL guys interest you? How about a Youtube trick shot kicker? Now we’ve got your attention.
This kid can hit them from anywhere on the field — and in a few places away from the field as well.
Want more trick shots? They’re all here.
Gable is the outside-the-box kind of guy Belichick would take a shot on, since he’s already shown an interest into Gable’s right leg before. Gable was a training camp invite in 2017 and spent a few days on the practice squad last season.
Those few days let Belichick see how Gable looked in a football setting, and the head coach hinted that he may be back sometime in the near future. Could that future be now???
Taylor Russolino: You may only know Russolino if you’re a true football junkie — or a gambler — as he’s coming off a successful stint with the St. Louis Battlehawks in the XFL.
He went 9-for-10 on his field goal attempts, and showed off his booming leg with a 58-yard bomb:
Holy smokes. We don’t know if he can handle the spotlight of the NFL, but that’s an NFL-boot right here.
Rodrigo Blankenship: As he did nearly 15 years ago, maybe Belichick will turn to the NFL Draft to find his new franchise kicker. And the bespectacled Rodrigo Blankenship could be that guy.
He’s the top kicker on the board after hitting 27 of his 33 kicks for Georgia last season, and 80 of his 97 attempts (82.5 percent) in his four years as a Bulldog. Blankenship has some big-time kicks on his resume, to boot.
He nailed a 55-yard game-tying field goal against Oklahoma as time expired in regulation of the 2018 Rose Bowl. It’s the longest kick made in Rose Bowl history, and the longest in Georgia’s bowl game history. He accounted for 11 points in Georgia’s championship loss a few weeks later, connecting on a 51-yard field goal in overtime that is the longest kick made in a CFP final. He can also kick in less-than-ideal weather, hitting four field goals in a 19-13 rain-soaked win over Texas A&M last season.
Blankenship won the Lou Groza Award for the nation’s top kicker last season, and was a First-Team All-SEC. Not bad for a former walk-on.