Nate Ebner wants to stay with Patriots as free agency looms

Nate Ebner wants to stay with Patriots as free agency looms

The New England Patriots have some key players set to enter free agency this offseason. Obviously, Tom Brady will take most of the attention, but the team has some important special teams players set to hit the open market as well.

Notably, Matthew Slater and Stephen Gostkowski will be available. And Nate Ebner will be as well.

Ebner, an eight-year pro who was drafted in the sixth round in 2012, has been a big-time special teams ace for the Patriots. In 2018, he ranked second in the league in special teams tackles with 15. He provided another eight last season and continued to be a key cog in that aspect of the game.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Ahead of his free agency, Ebner opened up about wanting to stay with the Patriots as he looks to continue his NFL career.

“I mean, that would be the best thing, I think, when you consider my entire career has been here,” Ebner said per NESN's Zack Cox. “I understand how things go. I’ve got some true friendships here.

“I understand how things work — that would be great. But right now, it’s out of my hands, so we’ll see what happens and I’ll just take it as it goes. We’ll see.”

It wouldn't be surprising to see Ebner return to the Patriots. After all, Bill Belichick places a lot of value on special teams performance. Given that Ebner should come relatively cheap -- he signed a two-year, $5 million deal last time he was set to hit free agency -- it's well within the realm of possibility that the team could find a way to keep him.

Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, and if the Patriots use up most of their cap space signing Brady and some offensive weapons to surround him, Ebner might not fit. But if Ebner's first choice is remaining in New England, it seems likely that the team will at least entertain the idea of bringing him back.

Which Patriots players made NFL's All-Decade fantasy football team for 2010s?

Which Patriots players made NFL's All-Decade fantasy football team for 2010s?

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Fame announced on Monday the official NFL All-Decade team for the 2010s, and it's loaded with New England Patriots players.

A total of eight former Patriots players, in addition to head coach Bill Belichick, made the cut. These selections were far from surprising, considering the Patriots won the most regular season games, the most playoff games and the most Super Bowl championships in the last decade.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

How do the Patriots fare when it comes to selecting the All-Decade fantasy football team for the 2010s? It's not as impressive, but you might surprised at some of the names. 

Here's a look at the latest NFL All-Decade fantasy team:

Longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who the Patriots released late last month, is one of two New England players on the team. His inclusion makes a lot of sense, too. Gostkowski played the entire decade for one of the league's highest-scoring teams. He's also one of the most accurate field goal kickers of his generation.

Veteran wide receiver Antonio Brown is the other former Patriots player on the team, although he only played in one game for New England -- a Week 2 matchup versus the Miami Dolphins last season. He was productive from a fantasy perspective, however, tallying four receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots defense also made the team. This unit certainly wasn't elite the entire decade, but consistency is key here. New England's defense rarely allows a ton of points and usually dominates the turnover battle. Not giving up many points and piling up turnovers make for a productive fantasy defense. The Patriots' D also has scored plenty of touchdowns, including a league-high seven last season.

Listen and subscribe to Phil Perry's Next Pats Podcast here: 

Former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski not being on this team isn't a huge surprise despite his Hall of Fame-caliber production.

A multitude of injuries prevented him from playing many full seasons. Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham both made their professional debuts at the start of the decade in 2010. However, Gronk played in only 115 games before retiring after the 2018 season, whereas Graham played 153 games and remains an active player with the Chicago Bears. Graham's ability to consistently stay healthy gave him more opportunities to rack up fantasy points. One of the most valuable parts of fantasy football is availability.

Not many Patriots players were the best fantasy football scorer at their respective positions during the 2010s. That said, if you drafted a ton of Patriots players over the last 10 years, you probably did quite well in your fantasy leagues. 

Tom Brady drives at real reason he left Patriots in Players' Tribune article

Tom Brady drives at real reason he left Patriots in Players' Tribune article

We don't need to speculate anymore. Tom Brady is telling us himself why he left the New England Patriots after 20 seasons.

The new Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback posted a lengthy article Monday in The Players' Tribune (which was founded by his landlord, Derek Jeter) titled, "The Only Way Is Through."

Brady repeatedly thanked his former teammates and Patriots fans for their support over the last two decades.

But the 42-year-old quarterback also drove home another point: He left New England because he wanted a new challenge.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

"Choosing to leave New England, and the only team I’ve known for 20 years, to join a new football team is a great opportunity, a great change and a great challenge," Brady wrote.

" ... When you play for one team for two decades, change is exciting."

ESPN's Ian O'Connor reported recently that Brady simply had had enough of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Our Tom E. Curran also reported that Belichick didn't exactly make Brady feel wanted as the six-time Super Bowl champion entered free agency for the first time.

Brady obviously didn't spell that out, but he did cite a desire to prove (to Belichick, perhaps?) he can still play at a high level.

Listen and subscribe to Phil Perry's Next Pats Podcast here: 

"Physically, I’m as capable of doing my job as I’ve ever been. Now I want to see what more I can do. I want to see how great I can be," Brady wrote.

" ... I’m excited to be embraced fully for what I can bring to the Bucs. In turn I’m ready to embrace fully a team that is confident in what I do — and what I bring — and is willing to go on this ride with me."

It sounds like Brady's former employer wasn't willing to go on that ride with a QB who turns 43 in August.

Brady indeed will have a much different experience in Tampa Bay under player-friendly head coach Bruce Arians. That drastic change will force Brady to adapt after 20 years with Belichick, but apparently it's a challenge he's eager to tackle.

"It will be a learning curve," Brady wrote. " ... Still, I’m excited. Most of all, I’m motivated. I want to deliver for my new team, my new coaches and my new teammates.

"I don’t want to let anyone down. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got."