Once Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent last week, veteran kicker Stephen Gostkowski became the longest-tenured player on the Patriots roster.
After 14 years together, the Pats announced they have released Gostkowski in a cap-saving move Monday. Gostkowski leaves as the franchise's all-time leading scorer and the fifth-most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history. He went on injured reserve last year after electing to undergo surgery that would fix a long-standing hip injury.
He had begun the season going 7-of-8 on field goal tries, though he also missed four extra points. Gostkowski, 36, is still recovering as of January. The Patriots do not have another kicker on their roster.
Over his career, Gostkowski won three Super Bowls, earned two All-Pro nods and reached four Pro Bowls. He made 87.4% of his field goals and posted an even higher mark in the postseason. He was remarkably consistent, even as he missed a kick in the final game of the past four Pats seasons he completed.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick called Gostkowski one of the greatest kickers of all time last October. Special teams captain Matthew Slater also offered high praise for his long-time teammate after it was announced Gostkowski would miss the remainder of the season on IR.
“He's a guy who's done his job and done it quietly, and done it at a high level for a long time,” Slater said. “He's always put this team first, and he's always been willing to do whatever it takes in order that this team be successful. His approach has been tremendous, and I've learned how to be a pro from watching Steve over the years.”
Slater, who signed a two-year deal this offseason, now becomes the longest-tenured Patriot.
By cutting Gostkowski, the Pats have roughly doubled their available cap space, creating almost $3 million in room. They will still be on the hook for $1.2 million in dead money this season. In recent days, the team has continued to reach terms with free agents despite its cap constraints; striking deals with quarterback Brian Hoyer and linebacker Brandon Copeland on Sunday, then safety Cody Davis on Monday
The Patriots drafted Gostkowski in the fourth round of the 2006 draft out of Memphis. He successfully replaced arguably the greatest kicker ever in Adam Vinatieri, who had left for Indianapolis as a free agent. By the end of his tenure, Gostkowski had made 124 more field goals than Vinatieri.
It is unknown whether Gostkowski will play in 2020.