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Patriots ink Stephen Gostkowski to long-term deal

Stephen Gostkowski is now the highest-paid kicker in the NFL.

Per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, the Patriots inked their dependable special teams ace to a four-year deal worth $17.2 million, including a $6 million signing bonus. Gostkowski was flying securely under the radar as a franchise tag player rubbing up against Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline to strike a long-term deal.

The 31-year-old hit 86.8 percent of his field goals over an eight-year career so far, but his previous two seasons -- 92.7 percent and 94.6 percent -- were his best.

As the NFL decides how they'll alter kicking rules in the future, a process that started this offseason by moving the extra point back to the 15-yard line, a dependable kicker has never become more valuable.

Gostkowski has only missed one kick from 50-plus yards over the past three seasons.

*The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses recent news from around the league, including the new contracts for Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas. *

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