As the football world awaits Tom Brady’s decision, the Patriots and special teams captain Matthew Slater have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.
At age 34, Slater earned first-team All-Pro honors after receiving the second-best special teams grade in the league, per Pro Football Focus, leading the best punt coverage unit in football.
Slater’s at his best as a gunner on punts, where he runs down to a landmark set with punter Jake Bailey before the snap; Bailey puts the ball up there, and Slater downs it inside the ten.
— NFL (@NFL) September 29, 2019
Last season, he also blocked a punt and scored his first career touchdown as New England led the league with four punt blocks.
After Sunday’s game, Mohamed Sanu said Matthew Slater’s post-game speech was probably the best he had ever heard. I followed up with him to ask him why. pic.twitter.com/6YRwXM4cDX
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) November 1, 2019
Along with his on-field contributions, Slater is lauded for his leadership and legendary locker room speeches. Upon being traded to the Pats in October, wide receiver Mohamed Sanu spoke about Slater’s moving post-game speech following the win over the Browns. Sanu said he was ready to “play a whole other game” after Slater motivated the group, and called it the best speech he has ever seen in his entire football career, including nine seasons in the NFL.
Slater also started an initiative among players to replace the void left by character coach Jack Esterby this past season, who provided a safe space for players to discuss life and football.
On the practice field, Slater has a unique routine explicitly focused on working on things that he’ll do on game days. Instead of breaking out with the offense or defense, Slater stays with the specialists (kicker, punter, and long snapper) to work on his craft. In some practice periods, Slater is off to the side, working by himself and a small group of assistant coaches.
The Patriots prioritize special teams, partially due to Bill Belichick’s background as a former special teams coordinator, as much as any team in the league, rostering several kick coverage players.
Slater, who has spent his entire 13-year career in New England, helps make special teams a priority by setting the tone for his teammates.