Players coming and going is part of every NFL offseason. There's going to be turnover from year-to-year. Whether it is a player signing with a new team as a free agent, being traded, or even retiring, it is all part of life in the NFL.
This is certainly going to happen to the Patriots over the next few months, but on Wednesday it was learned one important player, special teams captain Matthew Slater, seems every interested in returning.
"I think the way I look at it right now, I still love playing football and I still appreciate the opportunities I have to forge relationships and be with my teammates and play the game I love," he said at the Pro Bowl, via ESPN. "Every aspect of it I love. As I said after the year, I was going to pray about it with my family. We have. It's my desire to continue to play. ... I'm going to prepare and approach it as though I'm going to continue to play and we'll see how it goes."
Slater added: "It's hard for me to visualize myself playing anywhere else. But that's not always my decision, so I think that's out of my control. I've expressed publicly and privately to remain a Patriot for the entirety of my career and certainly I still feel that way. So we'll see how it goes."
After the Patriots lost to the Titans, Slater wouldn't commit to playing in 2020, saying he needed to sit down and talk it through with his family.
Of course, just a few years ago when Slater was a free agent he visited the Steelers, but ultimately returned to New England. This seems likely to happen again, as it is hard to envision the 34-year-old playing anywhere else. It's also hard to see Bill Belichick allowing Slater to play somewhere else.
This is especially important when looking at the current state of the team and what potentially could happen this offseason.
Slater is undoubtedly one of the biggest leaders on the entire team. He's the one giving the postgame speech in the locker room (win or lose) and is a big influence on virtually every player in the locker room. With that being said, two of the other biggest leaders on the team have the potential to depart as free agents -- Tom Brady and Devin McCourty.
Brady is a free agent for the first time in his career and he seems prepared to speak with other teams, leaving the door open for him to potentially leave New England after 20 years. Then there's McCourty. Will the Patriots want to pay the 32-year-old over $10 million a year? It might be out of their comfort zone and since he's coming off one of his best years, there certainly will be interest on the open market as more than just a good locker room guy. He can still play.
Not to mention, the Patriots lost special teams coach Joe Judge to the Giants, so the special teams unit will be going through a bit of a transition period. Having Slater around would only help that process.
In an offseason with so many question marks, having Slater just say he wants to finish his career as a Patriot is a good thing.